MANILA, Philippines - After a rather shaky win on opening day, the Philippine Azkals hope to post a more comfortable victory against the less fancied Macau side tonight, seeking to get the full three points that will move it closer to the title in the Philippine Football Peace Cup at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Firing blanks majority of the way, the Phil and James Younghusband-less Azkals leaned on Fil-German Patrick Reichelt’s header in the 81st minute to escape with a 1-0 triumph over Guam late Tuesday night and seize the lead in the four-nation meet.
Macau nearly pulled one off against higher-ranked Chinese-Taipei, if not for a late goal off a penalty kick by the Taiwanese Yang Chao Sun that forged a 2-2 standoff and a tie at second in the short round-robin tournament.
“We’re happy with the result,” Azkals coach Michael Weiss said after their conquest of Guam. “I’m not so happy with the game but it will become better. We’ll focus on our next opponent, Macau. We have to win that game. If we win that game, we’ll be in very, very good position to win the whole tournament.”
Leung Sui Wing, coach of the 200th ranked Macau, through an interpeter, said for them to beat the Azkals (150th), they need to work on their midfield.
“We have to improve our midfield, how we can be more compact,” Leung said through an interpreter.
Previously, the Azkals nipped Macau in the 2011 Long Teng Cup, 2-0, but Weiss wouldn’t want to fall into complacency in the 7:30 p.m. match, knowing how Macau played in the Peace Cup opener.
“They’re also a team on the rise, have some players from outside, played 2-2 against Chinese Taipei, a surprising result,” Weiss said. “We’ll never take this opponent lightly but with home advantage, hopefully some more people than tonight (Tuesday), we shall be able to get to the final day (with six points).
Parading eight new starters in the absence of the Younghusbands and the Europe-based pros who were there when the Azkals beat Guam, 3-0, in a friendly in Bacolod last June, the Azkals still dominated the Guamanians but just failed to cash in on their scoring opportunities.
“We saw a dominating Phl team in the first half, (although) without converting those plenty of chances. Next time we have to be cool, more composed in front of the goal and work on chances,” Weiss said, giving credit to Reichelt for “showing what he’s got against an opponent who gave us a hard time.”
“We were a little bit sloppy in the first 20 to 30 minutes of the second half. Guam was pressing us higher and we were very slow building up,” he added.
The German mentor said cohesion and jelling were still wanting, considering this is a different crew. Fil-Ams Demit Omphroy and Matthew Uy were among the new faces who made their full international debut against Guam.
“The spirit of the group helped us through this game (Guam). I expect Thursday and Saturday (against Chinese-Taipei) to be much, much better and also for the future. Most of these people (new additions) will help Phl stay strong in Asia and go up the ladder in world ranking,” he said.
Chinese-Taipei and Guam, whose players had stomach issues in Day 1, usher in action at 4 p.m.