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Azkals in 4-nil Rout of Indonesia to Make 3rd Straight Suzuki Cup Semis

Video captured from video on the
2014 AFF Suzuki Cup YouTube channel.
There is, indeed, a time for everything. Philippines 4 Indonesia 0 may not quite be payback for the ignominy of the 1-13 rout at the Bung Karno 12 years ago; but the first-ever victory over Indonesia was every bit as comprehensive.

Moreover, because both Indonesia and Vietnam could only draw their opening match against each other in the 2014 Suzuki Cup, tonight’s victory for the Azkals meant that they are the first team to qualify for the semi-finals.

Ironically, Indonesia could have nicked ahead as early as the 2nd minute when the Philippines failed to properly clear a freekick; and Daisuke Sato, who played with a maturity well beyond his 19 years of age, had to clear off the line.

After having weathered the initial storm, the Philippines slowly began to get a grip on the game and forced Indonesia to defend deep. Central defender Juani Guirado appeared to have pulled a hamstring in the 15th minute and had to be replaced by Rob Gier.

Four years ago, it was in the historic city of Hanoi where the Azkals took off on a flight to explore realms previously unknown. Perhaps the team is back in the same city to embark on another exhilarating voyage of exploration.
Just a minute later, and with the Philippines still down to 10 men, the outstanding Misagh Bahadoran chased after the ball down the left flank and latched on to a nonchalant back pass by an Indonesian defender. Bahadoran charged into the Indonesian goal and was scythed down just before he could pull the trigger.

Up stepped Phil Younghusband to take the penalty and score his record 42nd international goal for the Philippines. Indonesia completely lost the plot for the remainder of the second half and could have been down by 4 or 5 goals down had Patrick Reichelt brought along his shooting boots.

Heading into the halftime break, the Philippines were carving up Indonesia’s defence time and again with consummate ease that it was starting to look like a turkey shoot. Somehow, the Indonesians managed to survive into the break down by just one goal.

Any notions the Indonesians might have continued to harbour of a smash and grab were quashed in the 51st minute by Manny Ött, whose thunderbolt from just outside the penalty area was Goal of the Tournament-elect.

The goal was created by Bahadoran, arguably playing his best ever game in an Azkals shirt, who taunted Indonesia’s defence down the left flank before picking out Ött amongst the crowd in front of goal with a well-placed pass.

By the 69th minute, the Philippines had put the game to bed. The Indonesia goalkeeper was adjudged to have picked up a back pass; and while the rest of the Indonesia defence argued with the referee about the merits of the call, the quick thinking Martin Steuble asked for a quick freekick from Younghusband and passed the ball into an unprotected goal.

Indonesia were reduced to 10 men when Rizki Pora brought down Younghusband with a cynical foul in the 72nd minute. The Philippines’ top marksman had broken clear of the Indonesian defence and was taken out as he closed in on the Indonesian goal.

Gier completed the scoring for the Philippines in the 79th minute when he toe-poked the ball into goal after the Indonesians failed to deal with his diving header. It was no more than what Gier, and the rest of his team, deserved.

Tears are probably flowing all over Indonesia where the public is unaccustomed to losing to the Philippines, let alone by a 4-goal margin. Indeed, we have all seen far superior Indonesian sides in the past.

That said, nothing can take away the gloss from the Philippines’ victory. It was so comprehensive that the only meaningful chance that Indonesia had to score after Sato cleared off the line early in the match was a freekick that bounced off the same defender’s head. Patrick Deyto was obliged to make a diving save.

Deyto was called into action again late in the game when his reflex save kept out a header from an Indonesian corner. He was down quickly to smother the ball before an Indonesian player could pounce on a rebound.

The Philippines were composed in possession but not gung ho in attack, probably mindful of being sucker punched by the Indonesians the same way they did the Vietnamese on opening day. The team had looked vulnerable to counterattacks in recent friendlies; but tonight the players worked exceptionally hard to ensure that the backline was protected.

When in the attacking third, on the other hand, the Filipinos’ passing was incisive; and Indonesia could have been buried even as early as the first half. When in full flow, some of the passing combinations were attractive to the eye.

Where the Philippines really outshone Indonesia, however, was in terms of desire. The Filipinos were quicker to the ball for almost the entirety of the game and won the ball back quickly after losing possession. The level of fitness to be able to do this, and in tropical conditions at that, can never be understated.

So superb was the entire team’s work ethic that a short Indonesian corner kick was still quickly closed down as late as the last minute of regulation time. At the opposite end, Indonesian defenders were still being harried into losing possession even in added time as though the match was still goalless.

Four years ago, it was in the historic city of Hanoi where the Azkals took off on a flight to explore realms previously unknown. Perhaps the team is back in the same city to embark on another exhilarating voyage of exploration.

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