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Azkals’ 2-all Draw With Indonesia Feels Like a Win

There would have been some concern that Neil Etheridge and the Younghusband brothers were not selected to start against Indonesia in the FIFA international friendly played at the Rizal Memorial tonight. I would not read any more to this other than Coach Michael Weiss simply making full use of the deep squad at his disposal.

If anything, leaving the trio out was probably more a statement of intent on the part of the German.

Dennis Cagara apart, each of the players that started was in a manner of speaking already ‘warmed up’ from the Kuala Lumpur friendly against Malaysia last week. Cagara, who had just flown in from Europe, would probably have been kept in reserve as well were it not for an injury to Juani Guirado in that match.

Knowing as we all do how our Europe-based players tend to wilt in the heat and humidity of the tropics, how comforting was it to know that we had proven warriors of the quality of the Younghusbands waiting to be thrown into the fray? Jerry Lucena, too; and one does not have to be Einstein to figure that he was still on Copenhagen time.

As for Etheridge, seeing Roland Müller virtually a spectator in the first half would have also been comforting. The Indonesians were so devoid of ambition that they would have made Bore Team of the Year with plenty to spare.

It took them 35 minutes to win a corner; and another two to have a shot at the Philippine goal. Even this failed to give Müller the chance to earn his pay for the night.

Yet, if the game was at the Bung Karno, the Indonesians would have gone into the break with an undeserved lead. Irfan Bachdim broke into the box and was upended by Robert Gier. Replays seemed to insinuate that we would not have had a lot to complain about had a penalty been awarded.

Of course, for all the Philippines’ enterprise, a header from Angel Guirado that hit the bar was the closest that there was to a goal. Guirado is that sort of player who swings from the inspiring to the infuriating. Today was somewhere in the middle. His ambition was apparent; his finishing not so.

Twice early in the second half, you would have put your money on his scoring from the chances that were created for him. First, in the 52nd minute, Chieffy Caligdong found him totally unmarked with a delightful cross from the left flank. With the goal at his mercy, he sent his diving header at point blank range straight at the goalkeeper.

Two minutes later, he rose above everyone else to win a header off Cagara’s corner. His body shape alone said it all; and the ball rose harmlessly over the crossbar.

Of course, by this time the Indonesians had decided that they had not flown from Jakarta to bore the Rizal Memorial to sleep. With a quadruple Philippine substitution after the break bringing on the big guns – the two Younghusbands, Etheridge and Lucena – it was Indonesia nonetheless that took the lead against the run of play.

A long pass found Okto unmarked and Cagara struggling to regain position in the 56nd minute. From Okto’s cross, Patrick Anggai dove to steer the ball with his head past Etheridge and into the goal.

The Philippines drew level just two minutes later. James Younghusband intercepted an absentminded pass from an Indonesian defender, strove forward purposefully with the ball and stroked it past the advancing goalkeeper and into the goal.

There was, perhaps, a hint of both naiveté and misfortune on the part of the Philippines in the way that the Indonesians regained the lead in the 61st minute through Irfan. Yet another Cagara corner was cleared all the way to the half-line.

In hindsight, perhaps the ball could have been played back to Etheridge instead of forward and back into play. As things happened, the ball broke to Irfan; and in a footrace between him and Carli de Murga, it will take either the brave or the foolhardy to put his money on the latter.

With just over ten minutes of regulation time remaining, all hell suddenly broke loose. Misagh Bahadoran was fouled on the left flank. Caligdong tried to get Irfan out of the way for the freekick with a gentle shove on the back. Irfan thought that he was Indonesia’s incarnation of Manny Pacquiao. Cue rush of machismo in both sets of players.

Why, pray tell, were red cards issued to Caligdong and Manny Ott? The British have a term for such adolescent pushing and shoving: handbags. Yellows with a stern wagging of the pointer finger by the referee would have sufficed.

At any rate, Irfan would have regretted the commotion that he caused with his rush of blood because his teammates were the ones who lost their concentration. When the freekick from the foul on Bahadoran was finally taken in the 82nd minute, Cagara floated the ball to the far post where James Younghusband was waiting to nod the ball back to his brother Phil.

The latter calmly controlled the ball with his knee and slammed it into the roof of the net despite the attention of two Indonesian defenders. It was no more than what the Philippines deserved.

It was said in some quarters after the 0-all draw in Kuala Lumpur that that result felt like a win. That was probably a tad optimistic because we did not really carve chances of note.

Today’s draw, on the other hand, is the one that really feels like a win. I do not think that there were many Indonesians amused by having to watch the satellite feed back home and seeing their side forced on the backfoot for most of the match.

Although it also feels like somebody turned off the CCTV, sneaked into the house and stole all the goodies, there is nobody in this country who does not feel after the Taiwanese referee blew the final whistle that this was a game that we could and should have won.

Yes Philippines, we now have a football team capable of making our illustrious neighbors look ordinary. We were even missing a certain Stephan Shröck and enjoyed the luxury of being able to test an experimental midfield in the first half.

Oh by the way, I hope that those who were at the Bung Karno almost two years ago and did not have the grace to respectfully allow the Lupang Hinirang to be played in silence saw how the Rizal Memorial crowd behaved while the anthems of both countries were being played. This was the other reason why it really felt good to be a Filipino tonight!

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