MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) -- The Philippine Azkals paid dearly for a defensive lapse, enabling Indonesia to eke out a 1-0 win in their opening match in the Suzuki Cup semifinals at the jampacked Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta , Indonesia Thursday night.
An apparent miscommunication between Pinoy goalie Neil Etheridge and fullback Ray Jonsson allowed Indon striker Cristiano Gonzales to head in the solitary goal in the 32nd minute and give the hosts the upper hand in the 2-match series.
Receiving a long cross from Oktovianus Maniani, the 32-year-old naturalized Uruguayan soared and headed from 10 yards on the right wing as Etheridge, who left the goal unguarded, and Jonsson both tried to foil the attack.
The ball caromed off the left post and inside the net as the Indonesian crowd of 80,000, which included President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife, erupted in jubilation.
The outcome made the job doubly harder for the Azkals, who must not only win the second match on Sunday but also score more goals for a better aggregate tally to advance to the championship round.
But the defeat was nothing to be ashamed about for the Filipino booters, who, tuning out the hostile crowd, fought on even terms with their heavily-favored hosts, except for that costly error in the first half.
Filipino-British striker Phil Younghusband nearly scored the equalizer with a 25-yard back-to-the-goal strike in the 74th minute as Indonesian goalkeeper Markus Rihihina strayed away from the net to help out on defense.
Fortunately for Rihihina, an Indonesian defender was there to clear the volley over the crossbar.
For most of the match, however, Younghusband was a closely marked man with three Indonesian players collapsing on him every time he had possession of the ball during the physical match that where both sides were awarded 2 yellow cards apiece.
James Younghusband, Phil’s elder brother, and skipper Aly Borromeo were slapped one each for the Filipinos while Oktovianus Maniani and Gonzales also got one for the Indonesians.
Maniani earlier got away with what should have been his first yellow card when he elbowed Anton del Rosario in the nape in the 31st minute after being tackled by the Filipino defender.
Eight minutes later, Del Rosario and Indonesian midfielder Mohammad Nasuah butted heads as both attempted to clear the ball. Nasuah, a vital cog in the midfield, later returned with his head heavily-bandaged.
Del Rosario also figured in an argument with Gonzales late in the second half, refusing to be bullied by the stocky striker.
While the Filipinos pressed the attack at the onset of the second half in a bid to equalize, they lost steam in the middle of it and allowed the Indonesians to control the ball the rest of the way.
Most of their counterattacks fell short while the hosts found gaps in their defenses, which Etheridge fortunately managed to save.
Unlike their previous rivals, the Indonesians had scouted the Filipinos well and were ready for the visitors’ vaunted counterattacks.
With the AFF not implementing the away-goals rule, the Azkals can win the tie and advance to the final if they defeat the Indonesians by at least 2 goals in the second leg.
The Filipinos' next semifinal game against the Indonesians will also take place at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.
The game will be broadcast live by ABS-CBN Studio 23.
Friday, 17 December 2010