Azkals vs. Singapore Lions, December 8, 2012

December 8, 2012 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, Philippiines for the Azkals’ first Semi-Finals game in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup against the Singapore Lions: The Azkals drew with the Lions, 0-0.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Ed Sacapano
(Defenders) – Carli De Murga, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Dennis Cagara
(Midfielders) – James Younghusband, Paul Mulders, Jason De Jong, Patrick Reichelt
(Forwards) – Anghel Guirado, Phil Younghusband
(Substitutes) – Marwin Angeles, Chieffy Caligdong, Jeffrey Christiaens

‘Game Observations’
An incredibly ugly game for the Azkals in the first half, with the team unable to move forward and make good Shots on Target. Worst still was that the Lions clearly had the more dangerous chances, with only the heroics of Ed Sacapano keeping the Azkals in the game. Its a perplexing game by the Azkals, and I suspect that the pressure of finally having a home game finally got to them. That, and the fact that Singapore played with more intensity. They wanted the game more, and also managed to keep their focus on the game.

Much better second half for the Azkals, with the team finally showing their usual ground and attacking game. Jason De Jong going out and Marwin Angeles coming in also helped in changing the Azkals’ game for the better. However, the finishing was not there, resulting in a disappointing Draw on the home turf.

I also noticed that the Lions also took advantage of the Azkals’ weakness in Set Pieces. The Azkals very rarely score a goal off a Set Piece, while Singapore already had done so twice in this tournament, with a couple more dangerously threatening the Goalkeepers. So everytime an Azkal tries to move forward around the top and flanks of the box, they would rather bang him up and risk getting a Free Kick rather than have the Azkal get away. And it paid off, with only one Free Kick out of three or four dangerously coming close to the goal. Expect the Lions to continue to exploit this weakness. The Azkals, on the other hand, should try to make their Set Pieces count more, as the Lions will continue giving this to them.

‘Individual Performances’
Once again Ed “EdSa” Sacapano saves the day for the Azkals. He made at least three saves that could’ve resulted in a goal by the Lions. He fisted out a dangerous free kick; Blocked a breakaway shot off a Cross from the Right flank and then got to another Cross from the right flank before it reached an attacking Lion. Without Ed’s heroics in the first half, the Azkals would’ve been out of it quickly.

Like most of our attackers, Patrick Reichelt was ineffective in the first half, but shone the brightest on the attack in the second half, making two or three really good runs on the left flank which the Azkals couldn’t capitalize on a goal.

After getting rave reviews the last couple of games at Midfield, Jason De Jong showed his immaturity by wilting under the pressure in this game by being ineffective in winning and keeping possession at Midfield. I say his immaturity and not his youth, because Marwin Angeles is equally as young, and yet his coming into the game helped make that turnaround for the Azkals on offense.

Four games into the tournament, and Phil Younghusband only has one goal to show for it. I had hoped this would be his coming out party as one of the Best Strikers in South East Asia, but he has been a BUST, with possibly only one more game for the Azkals to play in the tournament. In contrast, Singapore’s Sharil Ishak and Thailand’s Teerasil Dangda already have four goals apiece in this tournament. I would be severely disppointed if Phil turns out to be a major dud this time around.

The other Younghusband, James, has also been pretty quiet on offense. I can’t remember James making any memorable runs in the game on offense, and I can’t remember him to be particularly well on offense either. Our offense was effective only on Reichelt’s side, but not on the other flank where James is. I wonder now why Weiss insists on starting him since he hasn’t really showed much in the last four games in this tournament. Maybe its time to try something different, he does have Omphroy out there on the bench, why not start with him instead on the right flank?

Credit our backcourt of Rob Gier-Dennis Cagara-Juani Guirado-Carli De Murga for keeping the Azkals third Clean Sheet out of four games. True, Singapore has had a couple of good chances in this game, but I felt they ended making HURRIED SHOTS because of our defense. They knew the defense were bearing down on them and had to rush their shots, and when players rush their shots, they miss, which is exactly what happened.

‘Parting Shot’
A bad result for the Azkals, in my book, and a major disappointment for the fans. Lots of hype before the game about this particular home game, and the fans did come, filling the Rizal Memorial Coliseum for the first time since the Kuwait game in 2011. However, despite that, we couldn’t even win or score a single goal. A win would’ve at least had the fans something to remember and talk about when they go home.

About the only good thing we did was to keep them from scoring a goal also. The Azkals are still in the fight for the finals, but the momentum is definitely switching over to the Singapore since they will be playing at home.

Playing at home means the fans will be on their side, and aside from giving them a boost, expect the Refereeing to slightly favor the Lions also, as they do with any home team. Not only that, Daniel Bennett in his Post Game interview seems to be implying that the Azkals could expect an even more physical game from them in Singapore, and with the Refereing on their side, expect a lot more bumps and bruises for the Azkals.

I think this series will be decided by a single goal, with Singapore moving on to the Finals. This because in this game, Singapore has proven to have the more clear-cut and dangerous chances than the Azkals so far.

For the Azkals, it is important for them to:
– Score a goal against Singapore at their home turf;
– And then limit Singapore to only one goal against the Azkals.

If they can do that, then they move on to the Finals on the basis of a tie-break since Away goals are counted as two in a tie-break. Expect Singapore to go for an early goal, and then sit back to protect their lead.

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