September 30, 2011

The Philippines drew with Hong Kong 3-all

The Philippine Azkals came back from two goals down and if not for a late Hong Kong strike, could have won the game but was held to a 3-3 draw in the second edition of the Long Teng Cup at the Kaohsiung National Stadium in Taiwan.

Consecutive goals by Lee Wai Lim and Cheng Lai Hin in the second and 22nd minutes of the match gave defending champion Hong Kong an early 2-0 lead.

A Phil Younghusband penalty kick got the Philippines on the board in the 32nd minute of the first half.

Thirteen minutes later, Azkals co-captain Chieffy Caligdong’s scored the Philippines’ second goal to tie the count at halftime.

Buoyed by the comeback the Azkals pressed for the winner and it was the Air Force winger from Iloilo that came up with the big shot.

Receiving a diagonal ball in the 63rd minute from James Younghusband Caligdong gained control and fired into the top corner to put the Philippines ahead for the first time in the match.

Hong Kong then was reduced to 10 men as Ng Wai Chiu received his marching orders and despite threatening on the wings throughout the game the Azkals held firm.

The Philippines thought they had achieved a remarkable comeback leading 3-2 into the final five minutes of the game but Hong Kong’s Au Yeung Yiu Chung turned in the equalizer from a free kick in the 87th minute.

The equalizer brought the teams back onto level terms, probably a fair result given Hong Kong’s better use of possession throughout much of the game. Both teams hung on to the draw and in the end it still signals a good result.

In the same fixture last year, Hong Kong’s Under-23 squad scored a 4-2 win over the Azkals. Now the Philippines have held their seniors team to a 3-3 draw. Seemingly fond of six goal thrillers both teams will be looking to Taiwan and Macau to maximize their goal difference as if Hong Kong and the Philippines win their remaining two games only goal difference will decide who wins the competition.

The long search for a trophy continues for the Philippines but they are making progress and showed great heart. Unlucky not to have won this game they have put in a performance full of resolve. The slow start is perhaps attributable to the debuts given to five new players; Roland Müller made many good saves despite conceding three while Matthew Hartmann, Jeff Christiaens, Carlos de Murga and Oliver Poetschke showed potential.

It was veteran winger Chieffy Caligdong who stole the plaudits though. Scoring a brace within the game he was unlucky to have been injured and replaced by Christiaens. After the game coach Michael Weiss hailed the winger for his “fantastic" performance and mused that “We should have been rewarded with the win just for Caligdong’s effort."

Clearly disappointed with some of the referee’s decisions he particularly thought the team could have won the game when Phil Younghusband appeared to be wrongly flagged offside. Through on goal at that time it would have put the Philippines up 4-2, an exact reversal of last year’s score and would have put the game to rest.

With Hong Kong slight favorites to win the competition avoiding defeat means the Philippines have a real chance at winning their first trophy in almost a century. Weiss now has the options to switch things up when needed after being criticized in the past for not trusting his substitutes. His main concern, though, will be the injury which forced Caligdong off the pitch. With a race to the highest goal difference (goals scored minus goals conceded) imminent, the Philippines will need all the creativity they can get.

A big disappointment in the game, however, was Jason de Jong’s second yellow card in the last minutes of the game. Obviously disappointed he once more failed to hold his temper, received his marching orders for dissent and will miss the game against Taiwan on October 2. Hong Kong, however, was reduced to nine men when Loi Keung was also sent off. How the teams will react remains uncertain and the Long Teng Cup remains wide open. — JVP, GMA News

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