Philippine Azkals’ magical run ends
MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – Defeated but unbowed.
The Philippines’ magical run in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup came to a halt Sunday night after falling prey to Indonesia, 0-1, in the second leg of their semifinal clash at Jakarta’s Bung Karno Stadium.
Uruguay-born striker Christian Gonzales scored from a thunderbolt from outside the 18-yard box in the 43rd minute to score the hosts’ lone goal.
Gonzales also scored Timnas Indonesia’s winning goal in the first leg.
Indonesia won the tie on aggregate, 2-0, and will next face Malaysia in the finals.
The Azkals were mounting a comeback when they were reduced to 10 men in the dying minutes of the game.
Midfielder Chris Greatwich received a red card after colliding with Indonesian goalkeeper Markus.
The match was a physical confrontation, with 3 Philippine players getting yellow cards for fouls.
The Azkals had several scoring chances and showed flashes of brilliance, with Phil Younghusband pulling off a Zidanesque pirouette in the 60th minute to escape 2 defenders.
Anton del Rosario nearly scored but his shot outside the box bounced off the Indonesian goalkeeper’s chest.
The Philippines’ Neil Etheridge was busy all night long, often going off his line to parry Indonesia’s attacking forays.
He made 7 saves compared to his Indonesian counterpart Markus, who had 2.
The Philippines had 9 scoring attempts, with 2 shots on goal. Indonesia had 15 attempts, with 8 on target.
More than 80,000 Indonesian fans, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife, and military generals watched the match inside the stadium.
Millions of other fans in the world’s most populous Muslim country, the rest of Southeast Asia, and the Philippines were glued on their television sets.
The 2 legs of the semifinal tie, although on a home-and-away format, were both held in Indonesia as the AFF thumbed down the quality of Philippine football facilities.
The unheralded Azkals defeated defending champion Vietnam, 2-0, and drew with ASEAN football powerhouse Singapore en route to the semifinals.
The Philippines’ 2 semifinal matches against Indonesia were broadcast live by ABS-CBN Studio 23 in the Philippines.