|Yes, this pic is used with permission :)|
I'm not gonna write about how the match went, everyone has already, but let me just say for those who were unfortunate enough to miss it, it was history in the making! In my mind it should rank up there with the "Hanoi miracle", the 3rd place win in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup and above the 2010 draw with Singapore!
By the way, is anyone complaining about the poor pitch infront of the Singapore goalie? You know, the one that made Chieffy's shot bounce up just high enough for it to be only partially blocked? You know, the one that resulted in a game changing, heart crushing goal against the Lions? No "poor pitch" and "it rained" complaint today? I though so...
THE PLAYERS WHO WROTE HISTORY
Ok, dramatic, but they did...
Phil - Its funny how everyone expects Phil to score everytime he's on the pitch. My mates at usapangfootball.com were debating if he was just a good set piece player or, is he a good "passer" and "can he create his own shots" too? I don't know about you but I believe he's an excellent shot creator who "knows" where to place himself and deadly on the move. Want proof? Check out the match versus Palestine, when he weaved through three Palestinian players to score a goal with no other Azkal players around to help. Of course he can be very opportunistic too, such as that sudden goal against Tajikistan when he pretty much was a recipient of a great pass from Angel. Like I said previously, we're only as good as Phil makes us to be. But don't fret help is on the way...
...because Chieffy's back! He's back to his frenetic self. Most likely the smallest of players everytime the Azkals play, no one can discount his left side acumen. Sure he may not be as polished as some of our Euros but if you were the opponent, will you really discount that high speed motor the Chief's got? One thing I did see though, was the number of poor passes he attempted against the Lions. Don't trust me, watch the game again. Some very promising Azkal runs were cut short by his bad passes. I'm not complaining too much though, he is what he is, and having high level guys like Stephan , Paul, Jerry & James, well it's just not fair to compare, his forte is scoring and thank God it is!
Another, topic usapangfootball.com members talked about was that the Chief seems to be better playing less than the whole 90' as it seems his pace slows down a step or two pass the 60-65th minute. I'm not sure if it's because of his conditioning(because of his recent injury) but I think its a great idea, after all having a Bahadoran, Porteria or a Reichelt waiting on the wings only bodes well against the tired defense of an Azkal opponent.
Paul Mulders - I though he'd show a little bit more this game but he didn't, all the limelight went to Schrock and Cheiffy not to mention Phil. But wait! One of the main reasons we were able to weather that early Singapore storm was because of he and Jerry Lucenas' defense in conjunction with the our back four(which made it a 6 man defense almost all the time), not to mention timely exit passes such as the Mulders, Phil, Stephan & Chieffy passing clinic which resulted in the Azkals' first goal!
Stephan Schröck - As a fellow twitter friend said earlier, it's nice to know rookie Filipino soccer fans(yes, me included) can appreciate a great pitch performance even without scoring a goal. If you didn't see the game, catch it on a replay. THIS is what you expect from a Bundesliga player. MotM!
Carli - I can't think of anyone in the UFL or current Azkal pool(ok, besides SS) that can put as much pressure on defense AND offense for the team! Almost all the time, you can leave this guy one on one with his opposite without hitting the panic button.
Jeffrey Christiaens is quickly showing that Weiss' experiments sometimes bears good "fruit". His pace, combined with his partner on the left side, Chieffy can be a scary thing for opponents once the kid matures into the position. I'll still take Ray Jonsson over him in big games, but there's no denying that this experiment is "so-far-so-good" and this WAS a big game!
Sabio and Gier have been solid so far. those blank sheets against Cambodia and especially Singapore speaks volumes. Gier's back line leadership is to be commended, If he was locally based no doubt he'd be "the" team captain. If Aly isn't back by the time the Suzuki Cup rolls around and our Euro midfielders aren't available either, it will be a huge test for him and his defense.
Neil had another shut out but looked shakey in a few Lion offensive series' not to mention those bobbles and flubs against Cambodia. But Neil is a proven Azkal commodity and I still believe he's one of SEA's best.
They may not be all-stars individually but together, Neil, the back four and the center mids made this victory happen as much as Stephan Schröck was the MotM.
Talk about Roland Müller, a news report quoted Weiss saying he knew the Duisburg coach and could be almost certain he can arrange Roland to be available for the Suzuki Cup. It seemed unlikely to me previously because Roland backs up the first AND the second team but not anymore. Duisburg II now has two 19yo backup keepers, which means Lenz, the youth team starting gk can technically back up the first team keeper. Meaning? Better chance for Müller to be able to join us in the Suzuki Cup.
The absence of the Younghusband's and Lucena(against Laos) is probably a good thing for the team in the long run. It will force the coaching staff to get an even more extended look at our fringe players and how they do in a competitive environment. I can see Weiss giving more time to Marwin in place of Lucena and Wolf and Reichelt in place of Phil and James.
Not to discount the "Thim Xad" but I also would like to see some pitch time for David Basa. He did fairly well in the UFL last season and even if he's not starter quality(in the eyes of the coaching staff) it's still a good thing to have, at least, a tested and experienced emergency back up.
THINGS I WONDER ABOUT
Speaking of experienced back ups, whatever issues(if any) the Azkal management and/or the individual players have with each other, I hope it gets resolved and we get to see Mark Hartmann, Neckson Leonora, Jerry Barbaso and Anton del Rosario back in the fold. Here's why:
Anton del Rosario - because I think he's got good football IQ, is a proven veteran and can play right & center back. Center back is a weak spot, lacking in quality reserves if Aly won't be available for the Suzuki Cup. Sure we've got Jerry Lucena, but if he plays he'll be much more valuable manning the defensive midfield position.
Mark Hartmann - A big bruiser, accomplished set player, young and is still improving and has a nose for the ball.
Barbaso and Leonora - Gifted with speed, some national team experience, young and could still improve.
If you saw the game, be thankful, you've just witnessed arguably a top three most historical game of the Philippine national team in recent memory. More importantly, believe me when I say, our neighbors noticed this accomplishment and from now on they'll be much more aware when they play the street dogs!