Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Singapore gets back at the Azkals

This appears in

Singapore gets back at the Azkals
by rick olivares with photo by craig burrows (thanks, buddy)

This was a day that the Singapore Lions were long waiting for. Suzuki Cup or friendly – it didn’t matter. They wanted to play the Azkals.

After the Philippine Men’s Football National Team scored a late goal against the Lions in the first match of the group stage of last year’s Suzuki Cup, the point Singapore yielded cost them a chance to advance to the semifinals and ultimately sent them out of the tournament and into a rebuilding phase.

After conceding a point to the Philippines for the first time ever and the Azkals’ subsequent win over Vietnam, the Lions began to treat the team with much more respect. Even their head coach Raddy Avramovic began to hang out with the team in the lobby and offer kind words about them is pre-match press conferences.

What was even funnier was on the final day of the group stage, some of the Lions players were even asking the Filipinos to lose the game to Myanmar so they could advance.

The Azkals proceeded to go to Jakarta while the Lions went home embarrassed and broken.

Avramovic was particularly angry about the discipline amongst his players (he caught them still up at the early hours of the day of their second match against Myanmar playing cards (yes, he told us about that while hanging out at the lobby).

Among the changes for the Singapore XI was the removal of captain Noh Alam Shah who the team felt was a destructive force within the team. The team was lambasted in the press and the team was in disarray.

All because of a point conceded.

Singapore was stoked for the match but Avramovic was concerned that the Philippines had gained so much confidence since Hanoi.

He had cause to be concerned because after the 20th minute, it was the Philippines that dominated ball possession and had better scoring opportunities.

The Philippines’ short passing was so much better as was the build up to the attack. While the midfield is much better than it was in years and the attacks from the wings are still fearsome, we didn’t have that literal midfield maestro like Kaka, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, or Andres Iniesta whose inventiveness will be instrumental in the attack.

Stephan Schrock has given us glimpses of those blazing runs right up the middle which is frightening because he adds another option. But the fiery Fil-German was out with an injury. When you think about it, there’s Chieffy Caligdong and James Younghusband on either side who can both serve up crosses and feed Phil Younghusband a steady diet of throughballs. Having Schrock in the middle adds another dimension to the attack.

Schrock’s absence told (as well as that of Chris Greatwich) and Singapore’s maligned defense made sure that the Azkals’ principal scorers were always marked by at least two defenders.

It would be interesting to note that we hardly had any shots inside their box (and all of Chieffy Caligdong’s goals in the Long Teng Cup also came from the outside which means that he has a powerful left boot). Teams have done their homework against us and have prevented Phil Younghusband and Caligdong from working their way inside and getting good shots in. Plus, we have not really worked those corners well where tall players like Aly Borromeo and Anton del Rosario can win some headers.

Despite the improvement of the midfield, it is imperative that they join the target man up front. To ask Phil or even Chieffy to constantly try to advance the ball and score on a 1v1 is asking too much. Remember they are being hounded now by at least two defenders.

I had visions of Hanoi 2010 (where James Younghusband got inside the box and sent a cross that Greatwich blasted home for the late equalizer) when Jason de Jong (who played better today) got hold of a pair of scoring chances outside but instead his volleys were not really measured and they sailed over the goal harmlessly.

I thought that we could have actually beaten Singapore and exploited their new 3-5-2 formation that leads a lot to be desired. It’s a good thing their midfielders are workhorses who can run back on defense.

Singapore’s two goals (deflected or manufactured were all the product of getting inside the box).

Aleksandar Duric is clearly not the sprightly forward who made his debut in Singapore more than a decade ago with Tanjong Pagar United but he is still a scoring machine. He made his national side debut in 2007 and he has 24 goals in 43 appearances; an astonishing strike rate considering that he is now 41 years of age). On a Singapore counter, Shahdan Sulaiman sent the ball forward to Duric who put on a burst of speed against three Philippine defenders, dribbled thrice before blasted the ball past Neil Etheridge.

Duric ages like wine.

The final score read 2-0 Singapore. We had more scoring chances, but Singapore (still a work in progress and Avramovic has to be concerned when the Lions go up against a higher seeded Jordan in a FIFA World Cup Qualifier) made the most out of fewer opportunities.

As for the Azkals, the work continues. The quality of the team is clearly improving but I hope to see better results soon.

My biggest take away from this friendly is that although Singapore gained a measure of revenge with the win but with that huge match against Jordan looming, they went full throttle against us. And at least now they respect us.

Shaiful Esah ‘51
Aleksandar Duric ‘65


Here's something I wrote about our Southeast Asian neighbors:

Last night's television commentary ..... what do you guys think of it?


  1. It was a great game. Everyone played really good, except for that second goal where we were caught napping. The first goal was just a lucky goal, but we need to improve on how to defend set pieces. We just have problem with our finishing and our set pieces. Let's remember, they didn't have a single day of training for this match. Luck was with Singapore last night also. Maybe we need a Technical coach who can improve the finishing skills of our players especially our forwards. Phil, Araneta, CAligdong, Burkey, Bahadoran and Mark Hartman could really benefit from it. Just an opinion.
    James and Mark Hartman are better assigned as our set piece taker than Caligdong and Phil. Again just may opinion.

  2. Why is there always a need to downplay De Jong's performance? It might just be me but I notice somehow you're not too fond of the fellow. Yes, there's a compliment in there and then followed straight by a statement neutralizing it. Cut the boy some slack, he's young he'll learn.

  3. One, downplay? The shots were not well taken. Two, in case you want to know he is not the most popular person among the team members themselves. Three, I do not have a problem with him. Four, he didn't play well in his previous performance hence the remark that he played better today. Five, hope your comprehension is better.