In need of a boost against a familiar opponent in Vietnam, the Philippine national men’s football team, Azkals turned to the smallest man on the pitch: Chieffy Caligdong.
The 5-foot-4 Airman stood tallest after scoring the lone goal of the match at the 85th minute to give the Azkals a 1-0 victory over Vietnam in the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup Tuesday in Bangkok, Thailand. The win hearkens back to the 2010 edition of the tournament that saw the Philippine side upset Vietnam in a match that jumpstarted the popularity of football in the country.
This time, the Vietnamese were well aware of the ability of the Azkals, as the two sides battled to a nil-nil draw at halftime.
But the Philippines came out sluggish after the break, as Vietnam began to dominate possession. Caligdong, surprisingly left off the starting lineup, was one of a trio of substitutes along with Angel Guirado and Denis Wolf jumpstarted the attack for the Azkals, who took advantage of a shorthanded Vietnam side after an injury to skipper Minh Duc.
Guirado had a golden chance at the 81st minute, getting all the way inside the box for a shot that was saved by Vietnamese keeper Hong Son Duong. A few moments later, Guirado set up Caligdong for a left-footed shot at the corner of the box that found the back of the net.
But Vietnam did not go away easily, quickly regrouping for a counterattack. Le Tan Tai took a clear shot at goal at the 88th minute, but Azkals keeper Eduard Sacapaño got a finger on the ball, which hit the crossbar before being cleared.
The Azkals repelled last-minute attacks by Vietnam to come away with the three points, bouncing back from a tough 2-1 loss to Thailand in the opener.
The Philippines wraps up its campaign against Myanmar on Friday in another crucial match that could determine which team advances to the group stages. The top two teams advance to the crossover semifinals.