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, June 2, 2012

Breaking down the Philippines-Malaysia friendly

This appears in the Monday, June 4, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

Breaking down the Philippines-Malaysia friendly
by rick olivares

The match between the Philippines and Malaysia followed the same script as their earlier tussle in Manila last February 29. The Azkals were aggressive early on and had the defending Suzuki Cup champions on their heels. But once the Tigers got their bearing, they limited our attacks and they had their chances. The Philippines gallantly turned back the attacks and the result at fulltime was a scoreless draw.

Here are my thoughts about the match:

Stephan Schrock is electrifying.
I wanted to crib Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s “the most electrifying man in sports entertainment" catch phrase and it is true -- Schrock is electrifying. Who didn’t wait for the feisty and dangerous Tattooed Man’s return to national duty? 

He did not disappoint early on. He nearly got a first goal in the first 40 seconds of the match off a poor and lazy back pass by the Malaysians. And when was the last time you saw a Philippine midfielder gobble up acres of space? He’s got speed and fantastic dribbling skills. Once he familiarizes himself with his national teammates he’ll play even better.

However, once the Tigers learned not to fall for his dribbling as they waited for him to make his move, Schrock wasn’t able to weave through anymore. On several occasions, the Azkal midfielder tried too much to beat the defense by his lonesome when he should have passed off. I am sure that he knows he wasn’t able to do what he wanted. And being the pro that he is, he will play so much better in the upcoming match against Indonesia.

But Schrocky……….. damn good to have him back.

The midfield didn’t work in this match.
For sure we had our runs especially in the first 20 minutes of the match. Angel Guirado and Schrock were not able to able to really impose their will on the match. However, they will certainly receive a ‘B-’ for their efforts.

As the game wore on, Malaysia threw a defender on the wingman to prevent the crosses. When unsuccessful in preventing the pass, the Tigers made sure all the receivers were covered. When Malaysia played better defensively, the Philippine midfielders were unable to feed striker Denis Wolf up front or even properly find cutters with through balls. Maybe quicker ball movement, one-touch passing, combination plays, and less dribbling will help.

Datuk Krishnasamy Rajagopal is a fantastic coach.
How many homegrown coaches are there in the regional powerhouses? It’s only Rajagopal. As I have previously stated in my pieces for the previous friendly between the Azkals and the Tigers in Manila, when Rajagopal entered the Bukit Jalil Stadium to inspect the pitch in a friendly with Liverpool two years ago, the crowd saluted him like a conquering hero that LFC defender and co-captain Jaime Carragher remarked about the home crowd’s adoration for their coach.

And it is praise well earned. Rajagopal’s in-game adjustments were fantastic. By the 16th minute, the Philippines began to cede control of the match because of three things:

1)  1) The Malaysians correctly identified that much of the midfield play was coming through Schrock and Guirado. Once they marked them moving up field then they made sure that all the receivers were covered. No build-up and no receivers -- resort to the long ball.

2)    2) Their 3-4-3 attack formation (they switched on defense) kept us busy defensively. Their speed on the left flank reminded me of the trouble that Oktovianus Maniani gave us in the 2010 Suzuki Cup semifinals with Indonesia. That wingman of theirs was clearly faster than Carli de Murga or anyone else we had on the wings. Their movement in central midfield sowed confusion on our defense. There were moments when there was an obvious lack of communication between goalkeeper Roland Muller and the back four. Luckily for us they blew a number of shots on goal that they should have put in the back of the net.

3)    3) The Malaysians sent two waves of attacks that was brilliant in their execution. They were obviously well rehearsed plays designed to take advantage of misreads on defense. At times we stopped the first wave led by Safee Sali but we never dealt with the lay backs where Safiq Rahim or even Norsharhul Talaha were open for some shots.

As good as Malaysia played, they still couldn’t score.
Malaysia wanted us on their home field. They were upset when they had to walk all the way from Taft to their hotel in Roxas Boulevard in the February encounter. They were unhappy with the field conditions at Rizal. They were unhappy at conceding an early goal to the Philippines in February. If the tweets from last night are correct, they even had the advantage as their referees were Malaysian. So they where they wanted us yet the result was still a scoreless draw. For sure it could have still gone either way.

But I feel that we still took their best punch while we didn’t have ours. The Younghusbands weren’t even in the game. As much as I am glad that the other national players had their chances in the match, imagine if Phil were up front alongside Denis then that would have stretched their defense a bit more.

The Azkals need just a little more teamwork and juuust a little more communication then we’re going to start laying the smackdown on foes that used to beat us red, white and blue. It’s a scoreless draw where everyone had their chances. Both teams had to scramble defensively to protect their goal. That was a good game to watch and it was non-stop end-of-the-field action.

And Roland Muller, save for that instance where he ran out to challenge a shot, was fantastic at goal. He is for me the Philippines’ Man of the Match.

I like what I see. This is a very good team that can only get better. For sure every team – Indonesia included – will have watched that game. I am not going to give 100% credit to Malaysia’s defense for stopping us. Had our mids made better and quicker decisions with the ball then we could have seen another goal by Wolf or someone else. Had our players had a little more time to jell then we would have seen better play. I suspect that there was that ‘gigil’ factor that enveloped our team. For sure the Philippine team knows they can do so much better and I know that we will play much better against Indonesia.

Props to Malaysia for not attacking our fans. If this was played in Indonesia then our fans in the stands would have gotten jumped. These thugs should try going to Eastern Europe and let’s see how tough they are. Yes, that was a jab at the thuggish fans of the Merah Putih. Still, it was good seeing the flag and support by Filipinos.


It was fun watching the match with the entire Local Organizing Committee for the home matches of the Azkals at the PFF last night. That made it all the more fun. And thanks to Bob Guerrero for the mention. Back Four Bums represent!


  1. Screw Indonesia, that's why Lady Gaga cancelled her show there. I think they are the 21st century barbarian nation. Please scalp them Azkals.

  2. The Azkals team against Indonesia will be our strongest team ever. And we are playing at home, so I am expecting no less than a rout, not just a win, on Tuesday.

  3. Man of the match for me was Juani guirado, His tackling and depending really help up specially when mueller made a mistake that nearly cause us a goal.
    Kudos also to our centre backs gear & sabio excellent defense guys!

    i think if we missed so much in this game the service of Ray jonson in the LeftBack position and james younghusband on the RightWing.

  4. BTW, How's Juani Guirado? Is he injured?