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, November 12, 2011

Philippines-Laos: The 11th Hour win (thanks to Joshua Beloya)

This appears in the Monday November 14, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.

The 11th hour win
by rick olivares

The date is either magical or even sinister depends on who interprets it. November 11, 2011. Or “11-11-11”.

For me it’s special because for one, it’s my birthday and when the three elevens align it happens only once a century. I haven’t really celebrated my birthday in years because it reminds me that I am getting old.

Now aside from the other things I had to do on 11-11-11, there was the crucial match between the Philippines and Laos. Two losses had left the U-23 Azkals at the bottom of the cellar and close to being booted out of the tournament. A win would keep the flicker of hope alive although the team was also dependent on the outcome of the other matches.

While there are some things that you cannot control, there are some that you can.

Unfortunately, the match against Laos was careening towards a massive nightmare after some early cheer.

In the seventh minute of the match, Laos was shaky and their short game non-existent. And the Philippines, with one true chance, saw midfielder Manny Ott outrace two defenders and get enough juice in his boot to send it past keeper Sourasay Keosouvandeng.

Laos immediately launched an attack where they stretched the Philippine defense first before they bore down the problematic right wing where a cross found forward Lamtao Singto whose blast fortunately was well wide.

The Philippines has been running a 4-4-1-1 (there’s that “11” again) formation albeit loosely as the wingbacks have oft gone up high to support the attack. Minus the suspended Carl Martinez de Murga and the fallen Matthew Hartmann who was shipped home following conflicts within the team, head coach Michael Weiss inserted David Basa to man the central defender position alongside Neckson Leonora. Jacque Van Bossche and Patrick Hinrichsen were on the extremes. With team captain Jason de Jong playing a holding midfield position, co-captain Manny Ott, left wing Jeffrey Christiaens, and right wing OJ Porteria were in the secondary. Ojay Clarino played behind Jinggoy Valmayor up front.

Hoping to increase the high pressure, at times De Jong was left in a central back at time sweeper position with Leonora moving to the left and Van Bossche staying to the right. Three defenders with everyone joining the attack.

Just like that, Laos picked up on what Vietnam and Timor Leste did to us with quick counters and well-played passes in the final third.

In the 35th minute, midfielder Soukaphone Vongchiengkham sent another cross inside the box and this time it was a killer as Singto could only send it past Roland Muller who tried to close him down.

Then in only the second minute of the second half, Laos upped the ante when Singto scored his fourth goal of the football tournament of the 26th Southeast Asian Games. Latching onto a forward pass, the Laotian forward put on a burst of speed to outrun three defenders (he was at least three strides ahead of the last Philippine defender) before he essayed it home. Two-one for Laos.

Things were looking bleak for the Philippines as Laos was outplaying the Azkals. Despite being reduced to 10 men after a clumsy challenge by Hinrichsen saw him getting carded twice in the match, the nationals drew some strength from the late second half entry of Mark Hartmann who himself had a couple of scoring chances.

Incredibly, despite falling behind in all three matches thus far, the Azkals had shown some fight in them by playing better in the late stages of the game. I thought to myself that we simply love to flagellate ourselves before trying to pull the mother of all comebacks.

In the first minute of stoppage time, Hartmann got a through ball and raced inside, He drew a defender before he expertly laid a pass to a wide open Joshua Beloya for the equalizer. Even before the Fil-Swede scored, he had begun to make an impact on the offense end feeding Ott for a volley that unfortunately went wide. He also had an opportunity for a header but it had gone wide.

However, with seconds left in the game, Beloya, wearing the number “11”, his Under-23 number with Bacolod and with the University of St. La Salle, latched onto a forward pass. His first touch was superb and the control, so lacking in early on, was beautiful. Beloya found the right balance yet even with defenders crowding him, the Fil-Swede was volleyed it past Vongchiengkham for an improbable game winner.

And just like that, the Philippines, snatched a 3-2 victory from the jaws of defeat following a superb performance from #11 on 11-11-11. And for once, down to 10 men, we pulled out an incredible win.

The three points collected from the win allowed the Philippines to leapfrog into fourth place in the six-country Group B behind leaders Myanmar and Vietnam (both with seven points) and Timor Leste that drew a bye and has six points from two wins. Hard-luck Laos and Brunei drew up the rear with one point from three matches thus far.

The steak dinner at home on my birthday never tasted better.


  1. It was indeed an awesome Sir! with Kaholeros here in Bacolod gathering at Dugout to witness the game, morale was low when Laos upped at 2-1, but #11 shook Dugout with lasting cheers! The same ones we did when U23 Ceres-Negros Selection topped the Suzuki Cup you covered!

  2. Beloya had excellent composure in his second goal when he was alone against two defenders. I definitely see him playing alongside Phil and Angel with the Azkals in the future.

    And, maybe I'm being irrational, but I also think the de Jong and Ott co-captaincy somehow contributed to the win.

  3. Napansin ko lang. kahit hindi ganun ka solid ang back 4, much much better ang performance ng defenders when leonara & basa is playing in the middle, may lapses pero walang miscommunication . more compact ang defense , and medjo easy easy lang laro ng team, hindi tulad ng last two games, na halatang pressured ang halat na manalo. kaya nag papanic kaagad pag may lapses.