Azkals not panicking over scoreless draw, looking forward to Nepal match
By Cedelf P. Tupas
There’s no reason to panic, but the trend of unconvincing performances from the Philippines continued Tuesday night in a goalless draw against Malaysia in a friendly at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Almost a year after flashing their best attacking display against North Korea in the World Cup Qualifiers, the Azkals failed to break down a less heralded team in Malaysia as they were left stymied by the well-drilled and organized visitors.
Granted that the Azkals only got back to training three days ago, after a disappointing AFF Suzuki Cup campaign, it still came as a surprise that the Azkals weren’t able to finish off their chances with Phil Younghusband back playing up front alongside Chinese Super League veteran Javier Patino.
Azkals coach Thomas Dooley was quick to shrug off the result as the team looked ahead to their AFC Asian Cup Qualifying opener against Nepal on Tuesday when his team will be heavily favored to pick up three points.
“We would have loved to win after 26 years (against Malaysia), but the most important thing is the Nepal game,” said Dooley, who is expected to ink a fresh deal that will see him handle the Azkals until the end of the qualifying campaign.
“We ran a lot, we played nicely, but we just couldn’t finish. The last pass, I think, was a bit off.”
Azkals manager Dan Palami said the result was disappointing, although “it was a good base from which to start our preparation for the Nepal match.”
Finding positives out of the result, Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge welcomed the clean sheet against one of Southeast Asia’s better sides.
Still, the Azkals’ inability to find the back of the net against teams that are set up solidly defensively remained a concern.
Pressing Malaysia’s centerbacks early, the Azkals only managed a couple of clear chances through Younghusband and Patino in the first half as they lacked that cutting edge in the attacking third for most of the match.
Adding to the Azkals’ woes was the suspected knee injury suffered by Misagh Bahadoran, whose chances of suiting up against Nepal are now slim. Bahadoran was subbed off in the 30th minute, replaced by Mike Ott.
“It’s a day-to-day observation,” said Palami. “We don’t ever risk a player getting injured.”