The Philippine Azkals beat a young Maldivian side 2-0 last Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The match comes as a tuneup before they face top ranked Uzbekistan and it gave the Azkals a chance to try new things before the big game. Here is The Perfect Pass’ assessment of the Azkals performance.
Its no surprise that Neil Etheridge is the starter for the Maldives friendly. The Walsall shotstopper was the default choice after starting the first two games of qualifying.
Though the Maldives only had a few chances, Etheridge held his own saving three dangerous balls and once charged out the box to clear a possible one-on-one. Having four keepers in the lineup is a bonus with Roland Muller, Patrick Deyto, and Jun Badelic in reserve.
Daisuke Sato, Jerry Lucena, and Amani Aguinaldo started in the same order at the back for the Azkals but the combination didn’t last long. Lucena and Aguinaldo eventually switched to their more natural positions. The defense was modest with Aguinaldo cleaning up with Sato and Jerry were playing by their usual.
At the half, Sato was subbed out with Ingreso moving to his spot. Kenshiro Daniels also came later in the half to replace Lucena. The young backline was initially nervy which led to a counter attack by the Maldives but the play was closed out well.
Ingreso played very decent at the back showing composure and vision beyond his years and adding another possible defender to the fold. Daniels didn’t last long in defense as he was switched with Dennis Villanueva who proved his defensive skills at the last quarter of the match.
Stephan Palla, Kevin Ingresso, Phil Younghusband, and Stephan Shrock made up the attacking midfield of the Azkals. The combination struggled in the first half because of lack of familiarity, but flashes of brilliance were evident when linking up with the forwards.
Palla, who just flew In the day before, had an average outing linking up well with Ingresso and Iain Ramsey in some ocassions. Ingresso took on the attacking midfield role in front of Younghusband who took on the holding role. It took a while for both center mids to adjust as the Maldivian defense was solid in the middle.
The combination which was replaced in the end wit Paolo Bugas, OJ Porteria, Paul Mulders, and Dennis Villanueva (swapped with Daniels) was a more entertaining bunch showing more fluid passing and familiarity from the UFL. Bugas showed great defensive awareness while Porteria showed his capacity to spark the Azkals attack. The untested combination showed that there is a threat even with the most unlikely combination.
The forward trio of Iain Ramsey, Patrick Reichelt, and Misagh Bahadoran started for the Philippine squad. All three were effective but the defensive orientation made it challenging for the three. It took some time for chances to materialize as changes in the midfield affected fluidity in the attack.
Bahadoran was subbed off and Shrock moved up in his place. The move rekindled the connection between old teammates which led to more dangerous opportunities. Javier Patiño played in the final fifteen to and with him came some good shots on goal.
Though the goals did not come from the forwards, the persistence of the team bore fruit with the Maldives’ own goal and Lucena’s header. The opportunity to play most of the team was good as it allowed the coaching staff to asses combinations available in case of suspensions and injuries. Though the Maldives may have gained more from this match, the Azkals may have just learned enough in order to be successful in the next big games against Uzbekistan and North Korea.