The Philippines Azkals Under 23 team marked its return to the Southeast Asian Games with a match that mirrored its last, surrendering a one-goal lead in the second half to powerhouse Vietnam, 201, in its debut in the 2011 edition of the biennial meet in Indonesia.
But unlike the 2005 squad, which blew a 2-1 lead to Malaysia and lost, 4-2, in its final group match, this year’s team still has a solid chance in making it to the knockout phase of the competition, its first stint since hosting the meet six years ago.
The Philippines will have a three-day rest before resuming its campaign and target of 10 points against Timor Leste on Monday, Laos on Nov. 11, Myanmar on Nov. 13 and Brunei on Nov. 15.
Before the opening day match, coach Michael Weiss said they were aiming for 10 points on three wins and a draw to finish at second in the group, expecting the dangerous Vietnamese to run roughshod against the Philippines on opening day.
And that’s what happened yesterday as Vietnam, showing wonderful ball control and a penchant to spot holes in the Philippines defense, took the initiative in the first half.
Team captain Matthew Hartmann was forced to block a shot in the 13th minute, while defender Jacques Van Bosche prevented an opening goal after stripping a Vietnamese defender on a breakaway.
In the 27th, Roland Muller had the first of many saves denying a Vietnamese striker with a footsave before Manny Ott had the first real chance with a long-range effort that just sailed wide in the 31st.
Six minutes later, Ott was on target, beating the Vietnamese keeper for the opening goal of the match.
But in the second half, it was a different Vietnamese squad that showed up, hitting the crossbar just three minutes.
OJ Porteria also hit the bar but Vietnam quickly launched a counter that was denied by Muller, who also had two brilliants stops in the 56th and 57th minutes.
But in the 58th, Muller couldn’t do anything as Hartmann redirected a cross into the Philippines own goal to put Vietnam level, 1-1.
Muller had a few more brilliant saves in the second half but as Vietnam kept the pressure, the goals finally came with Le Hoang Thien slotting in a goal on open net in the 72nd and Van Nguyet curling in a third goal in injury time