Thoughts on the Azkals 2-1 win over Bahrain
by rick olivares
Here are my thoughts about the Philippines, 2-1, win over Bahrain.
I liked the speed.
This is of course not new. The team over the course of the past four years has become first, more conditioned, then more skilled, and more mentally tough.
One key call up in recent years has been Misagh Bahadoran and last night against Bahrain he was at his usual best. And that means blazing up and down the pitch chasing balls, marauding, being a pest, and scoring goals.
He latched onto a well-placed pass by Phil Younghusband that dropped just behind the Bahrain defender and Bahadoran got a boot on it to send it through.
Speed isn’t just being faster than the opponent. In football, the speed of thought and moving up the ball is just as crucial. I like the faster pace that head coach Thomas Dooley has installed. Again, previous coaches have been trying to improve the composition, defense, talent, and speed of the game. And the Philippines has become entertaining to watch. No more sitting back and parking the MRT in front of the goal. They go on the attack and in methodical patterns.
The faster pace may be fun but it can also lead to recklessness. Now more on that later.
When Bahrain pressed early in the second half, the Azkals countered with passing the ball to the weak side to open up the play and spread Bahrain’s defense. And the result was two early goals that ultimately made the difference.
Phil Younghusband is still darn very good.
For so long, the PMNT has been looking for a player to complement and eventually replace Phil Younghusband when he hangs up his boots. So many have come and gone. And Phil is still right there and will go down as the best player to don a national uniform.
Now, I’d just like to correct a misconception about Phil Younghusband’s play in the middle last night. That wasn’t the first time. He played that role with Chelsea’s youth and reserve teams as well as for Loyola and the Azkals before. If you ask me, he thrives on this. The days of him playing upfront for the national squad might be over as he is oft marked well and roughly tackled putting the fear of God into everyone every time he goes down. Moving him to the back not only makes sense but is also more of a natural move for Phil.
The Captain is a very good passer. An underrated one and a playmaker to boot. He showed that last night with that perfect pass to Bahadoran. And his thundercracker of a shot from 30 yards out that Sayed Mohammad Abbas was barely able to stop.
That goal of Javi Patiño was his second in a national kit. It came at a great time. Now hopefully, he will be able to contribute more.
The team looks mighty good.
On the pitch last night were four veterans from the 2010 Suzuki Cup – Phil, goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, defender Rob Gier, and midfielder Manny Ott. That’s not so bad. There’s continuity.
Some of the players who came up soon after that game-changing tourney are back – Stephan Schrock who I said before was one of the more important call ups in recent history, Jerry Lucena who has become a key figure on defense. It is unfortunate that Schrock suffered a knee injury just when he was making his triumphant return to the national side.
And there are those gem of finds in Martin Steuble, Daisuke Sato, and Simone Rota, and now new finds Ian Ramsay and Stephan Palla. On the reserve are Patrick Reichelt who has also been an impact player for the team. Amani Aguinaldo, and Patrick Deyto to name a few.
Am worried about the propensity to concede late goals.
Not to take anything away from this huge World Cup Qualifying win but that late goal troubled me. They switched from a 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 late in the game to conserve on energy and play better defense. But I do have a problem when you try to hold on and not go on the offense and put them opposing team on the defensive. That opens you up to mistakes.
In last year’s Peace Cup, the Azkals surrendered three late goals (in the last 10 minutes). Thomas Dooley places a premium on the first 15 minutes of play and the last 15 minutes because this is where you make adjustments and where you hold fast.
In that Peace Cup, the PMNT gave up goals to Chinese Taipei and Myanmar that eventually won the trophy.
Against eventual Suzuki Cup champion Thailand, they also conceded another late goal in their semifinals meeting.
Against Bahrain, Abdulwahab Al Malood might have scored the goal of the match when he slalomed through the defense from their side of the middle third passed off once to a teammate before sending a delicate shot that found the back of the net by the far post. He went right through Manny Ott, Jerry Lucena, Juani Guirado, and eventually Neil Etheridge for the goal. That was a 60-yard run!
In spite of that late goal, it was still a massive win. The new format for World Cup Qualification can give us a chance (well technically, a lot of others as well) to advance deep into the tournament. The team looks pretty good and they run a good system. They’re massively talented and they make for fun viewing. Hopefully, more people turn up to support them.
We held fast on our homefield. Now to win another on the road.