Azkals vs. Malay Tigers, March 1, 2014

March 1, 2014 at the MPS Stadium in Selayang, Malaysia for the Azkals’ first International Friendly and first game for 2014, and also its first game under new Head Coach Thomas Dooley: The Azkals Draw with Malay Tigers, 0-0.

‘Active Azkals Players’
(Goalkeeper) – Patrick Deyto
(Defenders) – Rob Gier, Jeffrey Christiaens, Juani Guirado, Simone Rota
(Midfielders) – Chris Greatwich, Andrew Liauw, Mark Hartmann, Misagh Bahadoran
(Forwards) – Phil Younghusband, Ruben Doctora
(Substitutes) – Jason De Jong, Patrick Reichelt, Marwin Angeles, Anton Del Rosario, OJ Porteria

‘Game Summary’
We just can’t seem to beat this team as we now have three straight Draws with them, but then maybe it’s not really that bad considering how big Football is in Malaysia, like this match for example filling the 11k capacity stadium. Despite the nil-nil scoreline, this was a pretty exciting game because a lot of good chances, good saves, near misses and nifty-passing on both sides.

The Starting XI was a big surprise as only five (Jeffrey Christiaens, Phil Younghusband, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado and Chris Greatwich) out of the eleven players were the usual starters, and with three of the remaining six were first time Azkals players (Simone Rota, Andrew Liauw and Patrick Deyto). Thomas Dooley made a lot of substitutes, too, with five in the game on his first official game with the team. Despite the massive overhaul, the Azkals were able to keep the Malaysians at bay, something that would’ve been unthinkable under Michael Weiss if he were to do the same.

Then again, maybe the Azkals and Dooley were just lucky this time as the Malaysians were obviously the better team with their nifty short passing in the final third. They hit the crossbar at least twice, then missed the post by inches around twice also, not to mention that disallowed goal. It just seems that the Tigers were a bit off with their timing in this game. Had they been a tad sharper, that would’ve been an at least 3-0 scoreline there.

There are some improvements with the Azkals, the most obvious ones I feel are first, the team is more RELAXED, more COMPOSED. You don’t see them hurrying their passes anymore like they used to. They are more confident and more organized. Second is that the PASSING RATE seems to be quite HIGH, no more missed passes, or passing to nobody, and I feel happy about this because this is the type of game I’ve always wanted the Azkals to play. The familiarity is still not there hence you do see missed plays every now and then especially in the final third of the opponent’s box, but every now and then also you see brilliant, one-touch plays in traffic also which resulted in good chances for the team.

‘Individual Performances’
Patrick Deyto did well, making a couple of last-minute saves that kept Malaysia from scoring. That kid has lightning reflexes despite his height. Rob Gier also did well, when he was substituted out the Azkals defense became a bit disorganized and Malaysia started threatening a lot again, which means not a good game for both Rota and Liauw who were left behind to play the rest of the game as they couldn’t step up. Then again, this is their first Azkal game so that is understandable.

Anton Del Rosario played his first Azkal game in about four years, and I hope no more of the old attitude and that he stays longer with the team this time around. He couldn’t step up to fill the void left by Gier, though, probably a little bit rusty.

‘Parting Shot’
Not a bad debut for Dooley. Not a great one either, but I think he is heading in the right direction for the team, stressing more on a short passing game and actually making the team do it. The fact that he jumbled the Azkals lineup a LOT on his very FIRST game and still managed a Draw with a strong team like Malaysia is a good sign. I want to see the next couple of games, though, he might’ve been just lucky with this one, but we’ll see …

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