Azkals vs. Al-Ahli, February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012 in Doha, Qatar: Azkals beat the Qatari Al-Ahli Club, 3-1. Goal scorers were Phil Younghusband (9′, 53′), Dennis Wolf (45′) for the Azkals, and Ali Solaima Ashiri (57′) for Al-Ahli.

Starting XI: Goalkeeper – Roland Mueller; Backline – Luis Guirado, Ray Jonsson, Jason Sabio, Carli De Murga; Midfield – James Younghusband, Angel Guirado, Marwin Angeles, Jason De Jong; Forward – Phil Younghusband, Dennis Wolf.

Substitutes: Misagh Bahadoran, Ian Araneta, Joshua Beloya, Lexton Moy.

‘First Half Summary’
Right from the first few minutes of the game, it looked like this Al-Ahli team is not anywhere as good as the U23 Uzbekh team. They were not as active on defense, not as quick, not as … (fill in any positive adjective here). They probably underestimated us, fielding that overaged and overweight Goalkeeper which cost them a goal after he made the mistake of picking up a kicked ball, and which resulted in that free kick and goal by Phil.

Things did start to get more interesting when they started to pull out their players after that goal, and started to put in their first team into the game. However, it was not good enough, I didn’t see any of the speed and fitness in them as I saw with the U23 Uzbekhs, nor any of those killer crosses into our box.

We were trying to play “Tiki-Taka” in this game, but couldn’t seem to get the ball past our half of the pitch. Instead, the Azkals kept shooting those long balls into Al-Ahli’s side of the pitch, especially from our flank defenders (Ray Jonsson and Luis Guirado). Nothing wrong with that, in fact, it resulted in a couple of very good runs. The only problem was the finishing, we squandered quite a number of really good opportunities that should’ve been goals.

Al-Ahli was actually doing a great job of playing the short passing game on OUR side of the pitch, which was quite scary. I like the way they kept switching the ball from right to left and vice versa, trying to find a weakness in the Azkals defense, which they were unable to find. One thing I don’t like about these Middle Eastern teams, is that once they find that they are overmatched, they start playing roughly and physically. Lots of cheap shots in this game.

‘Second Half Summary’
I was wondering why Weiss kept inserting Marwin Angeles in the starting lineup of the Azkals, and this game proved why: He is a fantastic passer. I saw two great passes down the middle of the pitch from Marwin which resulted in shots on goal for the Azkals. His stint in this Azkals UAE Tour is sort of a coming out party for him, showing his wares at a very high competitive level.

I felt proud to see the Azkals play at last like a major South East Asian team with those accurate long balls, and exciting breakaways which resulted in a goal by Phil for his brace, and a couple of other missed chances. Again, the Azkals’ lack of finishing quality failed them a number of times on some really good opportunities. The scoreline would’ve been easily 5-6 goals for the Azkals had they not muffed those solid chances for a goal. A better team and/or players definitely would’ve made those goals easily.

It looked like Al-Ahli fielded their strongest team in the second half, they even switched jerseys, and loaded their frontline to try to catch up with us in scoring, making them vulnerable to those counter attacks. Kudos to the Azkals for realizing that mistake or desperation on Al-Ahli’s part, and capitalizing on it. They had some good players who were able to maximize the limited looks they had on offense by making really good shots, but it wasn’t enough to break the Azkals defense except for one goal.

Weiss didn’t use a lot of substitutes in this game, and he used them quite late, starting from the 80th minute and up. He definitely wanted a win, and I agree with him on this. This game was our best chance of getting a win in this tour, and I am glad we took it. Al-Ahli was our “weakest” opponent in this tour in that it was not a National Team, and Qatar as a Football country is not as strong as Uzbekistan or Australia, as far as the FIFA Rankings are concerned.

It was also important for us to win, as Football being so popular, the Dubai and other countries’ press was taking a close tab on our performance, and was beginning to look down on our capability based on the news reports. This win should get us some of that respectability back.

‘Other Notes’
Angel Guirado is definitely the man of the match for me in this game. His ball handling enables him to continue to be unstoppable with his runs in the flanks, making a couple of runs which resulted in very good opportunities, and even that goal by Dennis Wolf. I think he heard me, as the quality of his crosses has improved a lot in this game.

Chieffy better hurry back, I think Angel is trying to steal his spot on the Azkals in the left flank. Seriously, though, Angel played on the right flank against the Uzbekhs, where he was also unstoppable, so he can clearly play both sides. Him and Chieffy on either flanks are going to be quite formidable combination for the Azkals.

Jason Sabio again played superbly on defense, making a couple of important last-second clearances on defense. James Younghusband was back in his spot in Midfield, making a couple of really good touches and passes which helped fuel our offense. Misagh Bahadoran was a disappointment for the second straight game, not showing any good runs in the flanks, and was never a factor in both games, a far cry from his performanc against the Icheon team.

The only main issue I have with the Azkals in this game, is that we did not show a lot of good buildup plays on offense, almost all of them came from long ball passes, or one of those great runs in the flanks by Angel. Occassionally, there were those long ground passes from Marwin, but they were still long passes. I think we will need to experiment and gain experience more for those build up attacks from the first to the final third of the pitch. Do a lot more one touch passing, pass and move all the way up to outside of the opponent’s box.

I can’t understand why Chris Soler kept saying the Azkals were a “changed squad” in this game. The Azkals weren’t “changed”, the Al-Ahli squad was just a lot shittier than the U23 Uzbekhs. Guess what, the U23 Aussies are probably as bad as the Uzbekhs, that is one game where we will likely be tested to max again.

Since the quality of this Qatari Club is not so good, and they seem to want to attract our Filipino Expats there to watch their local league, then I wouldn’t be surprised if they go out and try to hire some of our local players to go there.

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