Saturday, 18 December 2010

No sulking for buoyant PH booters

Cedelf P Tupas

JAKARTA—It was a defeat that failed to put a dent on the Philippine Team’s morale.

The Filipinos refused to sulk after suffering a slender 0-1 loss to Indonesia Thursday night in the first leg of their Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup semifinal here.

“I think it’s pretty much open,” said team manager Dan Palami. “We can still come out with something on Sunday.”

The Filipino defense that had looked so solid in the tournament was finally unlocked before 70,000 boisterous fans at the Gelaro Bung Karno Stadium when Indonesia’s Cristian Gonzales headed home to an empty net after a mix-up by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and Ray Jonnson.

It was the first goal conceded by the Filipinos in four hours of play in the tournament. The Philippines gave up a goal in the 64th minute against Singapore in their first game, before going on to shut out Vietnam and Myanmar.

It was also the first loss for the Filipinos in four matches of the tournament. The team has actually gone unbeaten in its last eight international matches.

In Manila, President Aquino yesterday commended the booters for their brave stand against the Indonesians, saying they can still come back in the second game.

The Philippines’ coach Simon McMenemy blamed the goal on the high noise level in the stadium.

“There was miscommunication, the players just couldn’t hear each other,” said McMenemy. “Unfortunately, I think that’s where the goal came from.”

“I think there was a one-meter hearing radius,” Palami added. “How much more with the players on the pitch?”

McMenemy said his squad deserved a lot of credit for its performance against the slick-passing Indonesians

“For us, I am very, very pleased with our performance,” the Englishman said. “We’ve come such a long way in this tournament and we’ve overcome so many odds to be here.

“Anybody who knows football will understand how difficult it was for us tonight and how good a performance it was that we produced.”

Fully aware that they can still make the finals if they win by two goals in the second leg on Sunday, the Filipinos were upbeatFriday as they took a break from training and paid a visit to the Philippine Embassy here.

The visit to the Embassy was a welcome respite for the Filipino booters, who were heckled and booed by Indonesian fans on their way to the stadium before the game Thursday night.

Some fans banged at the windows of the bus that ferried the Filipinos, while others flashed the dirty finger and hurled invectives at the players.

Brothers Phil and James Younghusband almost found the perfect payback for the abuse early on when they came close to scoring in the game.

The narrow win actually left Indonesian coach Alfred Reidl more relieved than happy.

“We saw why the Philippines are in the semifinals,” said Reidl, an Austrian, who has also coached Vietnam.

“They are a very strong team but I think that we deserved the win because we were the more active team. A 1-0 lead is still a very dangerous scoreline, so we will have to play to win the second match as well. It will be too dangerous to play for a draw in the second leg, so we cannot afford to play defensively.”

Palami said that, despite the adversities, the Filipinos pulled through so many times in the past, and there’s no reason to believe they cannot come up with another heroic stand on Sunday.

“One thing good about this team is its never-say-die attitude,” said Palami. “We scored in the 94th minute against Singapore and we still have 90 minutes to turn the game around.”

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