Azkals vs. Laos, September 10, 2012

September 10, 2012 at the New Laos National Stadium in Vientianne, Laos, for the Azkals’ EXHIBITION or PRACTICE Game against the Laos Thim Xad: Laos wins over the Azkals, 2-1.

Starting XI: Goalkeeper – Neil Etheridge; Defenders – Jeffrey Christaens, Carli De Murga, Jason Sabio, Rob Gier; Midfielders – Patrick Reichelt, Marwin Angeles, Stephan Schrock, Chieffy Caligdong; Forwards – Denis Wolf, Paul Mulders

Substitutes: Misagh Bahadoran, Anto Gonzalez, Ian Araneta

‘Game Summary’
We lost to a team 50 places lower than us. Like Cambodia, Laos hasn’t played in a FIFA “A” game in over a year, and yet instead of dominating this game as expected, we ended up with a loss. It can’t be any worst than that. In fairness, Laos did play well in the game, they were very active and fast. It just seemed like the Laotians were playing with a little bit more conviction than the Singaporeans.

We had a lot of chances, but so did the Laotians. To our Defensive Backline’s credit, all of Laos’ goals were off Penalty Shots, they did not concede a goal coming from active play. Our chances were all weak, with none of them really testing the goalkeeper. We did manage to score a goal, but it was really more of luck, and came late in the game: Jason Sabio threw what looked like a Foul Throw, and while everyone was contesting that throw, the ball landed in Gier’s feet which he then managed to slot home.

Officiating was shitty, but that’s what you can expect when playing in an Away game. The Referees could’ve controlled the game better when the Laotians started playing a more Physical game in the second half, and they also could’ve given the game more extra time due to the altercation, but in the end if we were really dominant we could’ve just risen above all these and blown this team off the pitch. But we didn’t, and instead, we lost.

And oh, yes, there was a fight among the players. The Laotians started playing a more physical game in the second half, and the Azkals were starting to get frustrated about their inability to dominate the “lowly” Laotian team. And that frustration boiled over on one physical play. Nothing serious happened, though. Not all out punching and kicking brawls, just a lot of pushing, and some chasing, similar to what happened in the Indonesia game. I expect some Azkals to end up with suspensions in the next games.

‘Individual Performances’
Stephan Schrock was his usual dominant self in terms of ballhandling, but his passing this time was mostly off. I think its probably because he didn’t have as good a target as he had in the game against Singapore in Phil Younghusband. The Schrock-PYH combination was fantastic, but you take Phil out, and Schrock is suddenly not as impressive anymore.

The only Azkal who to me had an impressive game as Jeffrey Christaens. His youth and speed enabled him to track back and challenge the fast and quick Laotians defensively. In fact, they had a hard time penetrating that Left Side of the Pitch where he was stationed. Every time they tried to do so, you could see Jeff streaking like a comet back on defense to frustrate them.

Jeff even managed to overlap and go on the attack around once or twice during the game. If there is any weakness in his game, it’s his passing. He often passed to no one in particular, or they were way off or easily intercepted. He needs to work on that aspect of his game.

While Jeff was doing great on the Left side, Carli De Murga was not doing as well on the right side. Note that both of the Penalty Shots were the result on incursions on Carli’s Right side of the pitch. While he did not concede a goal in active play, he was either too far up front, or too slow to get back on defense, ending up with Rob Gier and Neil Etheridge fouling the Laotians during their last-ditch efforts on defense.

We have had Carli on Right Back since the start of this year, all the way from the AFC Challenge Cup, and he generally has done well since then, so I guess we could give him a break on having an off game every now and then. But still it does bother me that he is not that fast a player, certainly not as fast as Jeff. We may want to explore options of having a lightning fast player with decent height and defensive Football IQ on that side, if we can find one.

Patrick Reichelt again fails the Azkals. With the Younghusbands out, it was his time to step up and score some goals for himself, starting and playing the whole 90 minutes. He instead again ended up with a lot of misfires, opportunities which he should’ve been able to make if he really were of great quality. His speed is still impressive, and he has some decent passing and ballhandling, but his finishing is shit. The same can be said of Denis Wolf.

‘Game Status Note’
This was supposed to be an official “International Friendly” match, but the status of the game was later rescinded by FIFA after learning that not all of the officials used in the match were FIFA-sanctioned Referees.

My guess is that the Laotians got intimidated after the Azkals’ win over Singapore, and proceeded to hire Referees who will favor them so they wouldn’t be blown off the pitch on their home turf. The problem was that these paid Referees allowed the Laotians to play a very physical game, and the Azkals lost their temper which resulted in that brawl.

‘Parting Shot’
What a Roller-Coaster ride this South East Asian Tour has been for the Azkals. It started off with lousy Draw against a Cambodia, a team 50 steps lower than us. Then we were treated with wonderful and convincing WIN against a pedigreed team in Singapore, a win which seemed to have captured the imagination of the country. And then as if to take all of that back, we end up with a LOSS against a team 50 steps lower than us in Laos. Its ironic that we ended up filling up each section of the “Win-Draw-Loss” column in this tour.

The Singaporeans must be kicking themselves in the head after seeing this result, and this loss sort of nullifies the gains made by the team in that victory over Singapore. Instead of earning the fear of the other South East Asian countries, they probably have their eyebrows now raised in amusement. Yes, the Philippines is now a contender, but by NOT PERFORMING AS EXPECTED, our intimidation value has gone down. A LOT.

Another game without the Younghusbands, another opportunity wasted for the other players to step up in their place. It has exposed again our team’s weakness on offense without those two, which is the clear lack of consistent finishers aside from Phil. Chieffy did well last year, but is having a horrible season this year offensively. Anghel Guirado made up for Chieffy’s shitty season, but thanks to Cristy Ramos, he is on a self (?) imposed exile for at least a year. The other Azkals have to rise up offensively. The question is, which one, if any?

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