Azkals vs. Singapore Lions, December 12, 2012

December 12, 2012 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore for the Azkals’ second Semi-Finals game in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup against the Singapore Lions: The Azkals lost to the Lions, 1-0.

Active Azkals Players:
(Goalkeeper) – Ed Sacapano
(Defenders) – Carli De Murga, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, Dennis Cagara
(Midfielders) – James Younghusband, Paul Mulders, Jerry Lucena, Patrick Reichelt
(Forwards) – Anghel Guirado, Phil Younghusband
(Substitutes) – Chieffy Caligdong, Dennis Wolf, Demit Omphroy

‘Game Observations’
In the early minutes of the first half, Singapore went all out against the Azkals, pressing very high and constantly putting pressure on where the ball is and disrupting the passing lanes. This put the Azkals on the backheel until the Lions finally scored that goal. After that, the Lions visibly relaxed, and the Azkals started getting their passing game together. The Lions I think were just trying to preserve their strength so they can last the whole game.

This continued until the second half, but by the 60th minute it was obvious to me that the Lions were dead-tired, mainly probably because of their effort in the first 20 minutes of the game. They were running around feeling they had lead on their legs, and this was the main reason they missed two great chances in our box in the second half. Tired legs meant sloppy first touch and ball-handling, causing them to make silly mistakes and make what should’ve been easy goals for them.

To their credit, despite their fatigue they still played their hearts out on defense. The Azkals maintained majority possession in the second half, with the ball mostly on the Singapore side of the pitch, causing a lot of tension and anticipation for the fans of both teams. But the Singapore defense was just good enough to constantly deny the Azkals any real good chance at the goal.

‘The Mid-Range Shot’
I have been constantly talking about the Mid-Range Shot all throughout in this tournament, and true enough, this game was decided by which team had it. I do not agree some journalists saying it was an “easy” shot, it was a difficult Mid-Range Shot that the Azkals did not have in their arsenal. It went low and fast from the right flank from beyond the box, bounced once before hitting the net. Our defense was good enough on the start of the game that it was the only shot they could take. They took it, and scored the goal.

On the other hand, we did not have have that kind of shot, thus were unable to break down their defense when they started parking the bus in the second half. A strong Mid-Range Shot would’ve either gone in, or rebounded off the Goalkeeper or players for a possible follow up shot. That is the only shot you can effectively take against a parked bus in Football, and we did not have it. Our passing was nowhere near good enough to break down that compact defense by the Singaporeans, and without that Mid-Range Shot, we had nothing. As a result, very few Shots on Target by the Azkals in the game.

‘Individual Performances’
Ed “EdSa” Sacapano did not even have time to react on that fast and low mid-range shot. But he did make a couple of effective saves that kept the goal difference to only one, including two saves off threatening shots from outside the box. In a game where the Lions had the better chances, it was up to the goalkeeper to keep the score low, and he did.

Our backline did well in the first half, forcing the Lions to take a difficult shot from far away since they could not penetrate our defense. But with the Azkals moving forward in the second half, our defense became porous. We were just lucky the Lions were just too tired to capitalize on our defensive mistakes inside the box. If not for that, they would’ve racked up one or two more goals in the game.

Paul Mulders, Anghel Guirado and Demit Omphroy shone the brightest on offense, showing a lot of will to move that ball forward. James and Phil Younghusband did have some moments, but obviously like the rest of our offensive players, just lacked the quality to score consistently at this level.

Man of the Match would definitely be the Lions’ Khairul Amri, who constantly threatened us with his shots from range all throughout the game, even after he made that goal. His pace also troubled us, forcing the Azkals defense to try to keep in step with his speed. Aleksandr Duric also continued to lead the attack by Singapore, often pushing the ball forward to raid our Right Flank and Middle. But by the last ten or so minutes of the second half his legs were just GONE. He really should retire after this tournament.

‘Parting Shot’
In all fairness, I think the better team won and moved on the finals. They had the better passing skills, as shown by their numerous raids into our box. And they have more weapons on their arsenal, including that Mid-Range Shot. Not only did they have more Shots on Target than us, they also were the more dangerous chances, nearly making a goal a couple of times, if only not for the Azkals defense and the Lions’ individual fatigue.

The Azkals to their credit went down fighting. Maintaining possession and attacking after that Lions’ goal, they gave a good scare to Singapore and their fans, while providing a lot of hope for their fans. The “hope” did not result in a win, but they did show there were in the game fighting til the end.

I think Thailand will move on to beat Malaysia, and if they do, they certainly are the better team than this Singaporean squad. The Lions may have beaten us, but they have glaring weaknesses also that a better Thai team can easily exploit. They have tired, old legs, good only for the first half on offense. And the Thais superior passing game and ability to hit from mid-range will break that Singapore defense down.

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