Azkals vs. Taiwan, October 11, 2013

October 11, 2013 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod, Philippines for the Azkals’ first game in the 2013 Peace Cup, this one against Taiwan: The Azkals lose to Taiwan, 2-1.

‘Active Azkals Players’
(Goalkeeper) – Neil Etheridge
(Defenders) – Rob Gier, Jeffrey Christiaens, Jason De Jong, Jerry Barbaso
(Midfielders) – Chris Greatwich, Jerry Lucena, Stephan Schrock, James Younghusband
(Forwards) – Anghel Guirado, OJ Porteria
(Substitutes) – Patrick Reichelt, Chieffy Caligdong, Misagh Bahadoran, Mark Hartmann

‘Game Summary’
The first half ended with a score tied at 1-all, but it did not really reflect the actual performance of the teams on the Pitch. The Azkals vastly dominated the game in terms of possession and crosses into the box resulting in shots that forced the Taiwanese goalkeeper to save/deflect them at the last moment 4-5 times. The opening goal scored by Taiwan looked very much like it was OFFSIDE, and the Linesman who refused to call it should be kicked in the balls for allowing such travesty to happen right on the Azkals’ home turf.

The Azkals was rewarded after all those shots with the equalizing goal on a play that started with Stephan Schrock laying off the ball to Jeffrey Christiaens to the left, who then crossed it into the box which Patrick Reichelt then headed off to James Younghusband in the middle, who then quickly headed it into the goal (yeeey … loud cheer).

The second half started off as more of the same, with the Azkals unable to finish some more attempts, but the problem with missing so many goals is that you start tiring out and becoming overconfident, which is exactly what happened as the Taiwanese was able to get another goal off a counterattack. The Taiwanese then started to park the bus EVEN MORE on their Penalty Box and feign injuries, and combined with the Azkals’ inability to finish, the game ended with the Taiwanese winning.

‘Game Analysis’
The Azkals had SIXTEEN Shots on Target, forcing NINE saves on the goalkeeper but scoring only ONCE. The Taiwanese only had FIVE Shots on Target, but score TWO on those, showing how EFFICIENT they were, and at the same time exposing our INEFFICIENCY again. The lack of a good ground game or accurate crosses and lack of finishing again rears its ugly head for Philippine Football. This has been our perennial weakness for years now which we have been unable to solve up to now.

Taiwan was weak defensively, lots of holes in their defense. A team with good finishers and good ground game in the final third would’ve buried this team deep, very deep, but clearly the Azkals is not that team, at least that night.

‘Individual Performances’
Stephan Schrock again shone brightly in the game, much in the same way he did when he played in the 2013 AFC Qualifying Tournament at the Rizal Memorial Stadium last March. In fact, he was the lone, CONSISTENT bright spot in the game, harassing for the ball, making steals, and as usual making fantastic crosses, free kicks and corner kicks. However, without a QUALITY target Striker like Phil Younghusband and Javier Patino (both injured) to pass the ball to, most of his efforts went for naught. The rest had their moments and chances, but not really worth mentioning that much as they were unable to finish on any of them.

The biggest disappointment though, is the backline. The only changes made so far in this tournament in the backline compared to before was the entry of Jerry Barbaso and Jason De Jong, and sadly these two were unable to keep the Taiwanese from successfully raiding the Azkals on counterattacks. A lot of people have been complaining about Jerry not being picked for the Azkals before, but now that he was there he disappointed big time.

Jerry and Jason SHOULD have played smartly, always anticipating what the opponents could do next and played conservatively, but they didn’t. We really missed the maturity, experience and intelligence of Carli De Murga and Juani Guirado, but both are injured and so the younger replacements should really step up their game.

Neil Etheridge again disappoints, not only because of him conceding 2 goals, but more so because of his antics like pushing down a Taiwanese player near the end of the game. Neil should grow up, enough of these childish, immature crap we frequently see him do. He was already suspended last year for doing much the same thing in the Challenge Cup, you’d think he’d learn but here he is now again doing the same thing. Its not becoming of the country’s lone representative to the English Premiere League, and one wonders if that’s the reason Fulham FC has rarely allowed him to play all these years.

Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the Taiwanese should go to their Goalkeeper, who was forced to save NINE goals in the match. Were it not for him, they would’ve been burried in goals already.

‘Parting Shot’
The Azkals now have lost TWO straight games after losing to Indonesia last August, and the prospect of losing another one is staring them in the face right now. If they do lose to Pakistan, then they will end up with the ignomity of placing last in a tournament at their home turf. The team does have the tendency to play inconsistently, and since they didn’t play that well tonight, let’s hope they will play much better on Tuesday against Pakistan.

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