Azkals vs. Malay Tigers, June 1, 2012

June 1, 2012 at the Shah Alam Stadium in Selangor, Malaysia, for the Azkals second Friendly game against the same team in 2012: The Azkals held a scoreless draw with the Tigers.

Starting XI: Goalkeeper – Roland Mueller; Defenders – Luis Guirado, Carli De Murga, Jason Sabio, Rob Gier; Midfielders – Chieffy Caligdong, Stephan Schrock, Anghel Guirado, Manny Ott; Forwards – Denis Wolf, Paul Mulders

Substitutes: Marwin Angeles, Misagh Bahadoran, Ian Araneta, Jeffrey Christaens

‘Azkals Observations’
We had some good counterattacks in the first half, Denis Wolf had a near goal during one when had a one on one opportunity against the Goalkeeper, with his shot just going a few inches wide off the right post. It sort of shows his lack of finishing ability, because if Phil Younghusband had been in that situation, it would’ve likely been a goal.

Stephan Schrock’s passing was a bit shaky. He had a lot of GREAT, as in Youtube-quality one on one plays, but he wasn’t passing as well. His passes came a bit late, and quite off, especially the long balls. I think he should look to creating plays for his teammates by making those short passes rather than trying to bulldoze his way in by his lonesome in traffic. I agree with the TV panel’s observation that it might’ve been better for Paul Mulders to be the team’s facilitator rather than Schrock.

Mulders is a damn good passer, I can remember at least three passes from him that resulted in goals for the Azkals in a major tournament (one against Nepal, and yet another two in the AFC Challenge Cup). In the absence of the Younghusbands, Schrocky-boy perhaps is best as a target rather than as a distributor. He has the speed, energy, dribbling ability and not afraid to bang bodies out there, so perhaps they should’ve looked to him to finish rather than distribute the ball.

We didn’t play well in the first half, the passing just wasn’t there. Things improved in the second half, when Weiss pulled out Chieffy Caligdong for Marwin Angeles and switched Schrocky-boy to the Left Flank. Our offense went a little smoother, we were able to bring the ball to the final third of the pitch using our passing. Some good opportunities out of those passing, but wasted due to the inability to find the target.

Roland Mueller did a fantastic job, not only in terms of making a number of saves, but also leading the defense. He was pretty loud and always communicating with the rest of the team, and I even heard him shouting praises to the team after a good play, saying something like, “Good Job, men …” I think he has gotten better recently. He maybe shorter than Neil Etheridge, but he is lighter and quicker.

Anghel Guirado wasn’t as effective on the flanks as he was in the friendly against this same team in 2012. No doubt they were now wise on him, but I felt it is also because of the fact that PYH was not in the game to stretch the defense out. I think with the Younghusbands there, and Wolf working on the opposite flank will help him and Azkals offense move forward better the next time around.

Chieffy Caligdong hasn’t been doing as well lately. Halfway thru the year, and he has yet to score a goal for the Azkals, a far cry from his six-goal tally last year. And in this game, again he wasn’t much of a factor out there on the pitch. I think the injuries he has had lately has taken its toll, and he is in danger of losing his spot on the Starting XI with Schrocky-boy in there. Frankly, I see him possibly coming in as a substitute in the game against Indonesia next week, when the Younghusbands come back into the team.

I feel sorry for Juani Guirado for suffering that nasty knee injury in the game. It looks bad, based on the replays, and he will likely miss the rest of the Friendlies this month. Bad for his team in Spain, too, as it means he will likely be sidelined for a couple of weeks, if not months. Juani has become a vital part of the Azkals defense, even making a great save during the game. Somebody else has to step up in his place. It will likely be Roxy Dorlas, who reportedly was impressive in the Azkals’ training camp in Panaad.

‘Malaysian Side’
Malaysia had two very neat and very impressive dummy plays in the game, one in each half. Unfortunately for them, the finishing was far from perfect, wasting both great opportunities for them. That was the story of the game so far for both teams: Always coming close, but never getting that goal.

Malaysia’s celebrated Striker, “Super Safi” Salee didn’t look “super” at all out there on the pitch. He had some good tries, but unable to finish again, and his frustration was clear as I am sure he wanted to score on their home pitch. He hasn’t scored any goals against the Azkals in the last two Friendlies. I am sure he is getting some pressure in terms of competition as being the best Striker in South East Asia from Phil Younghusband, especially after PYH won the Golden Boot Award in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup.

Number 16 gave us a bit of a trouble early in the game with his pace on our right flank, with around 2 successful runs on that side of the pitch. That guy can really sprint, outrunning all of our defenders. The Azkals were quick to make adjustments, though, and quickly, as he didn’t threaten us that much the rest of the game.

‘Parting Shot’
A bit disappointed with the result for the Azkals, especially after seeing halfway thru the game that we could hold off our own against the Malaysians on their home turf. But I guess it was a fair result, especially since we are playing against arguably the best team in South East Asia in hostile territory.

The Malaysians had all the advantage this time around: They fielded the strongest team they could muster; They were playing at home with the crowd behind them, on their excellent pitch; And they were used to the calls of their Referees, which seemed a bit biased at times. Despite this, they couldn’t win against us. If they insist on playing like this, I think we can beat this team, provided we have the same team WITH the Younghusbands in the game.

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