After being held to draws in its two last matches, the Philippine national men’s football team didn’t have a hard time against a younger Guam side, pulling away with a 3-0 victory in their friendly Tuesday night at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
The Azkals stamped its class throughout the match, attacking in every possession and dominating the midfield to prevent any Matao attack. It didn’t take long for the nationals to score, as Angel Guirado blasted a goal outside the box at the eighth minute, while Carli de Murga fired another one at the 12th minute to give the Philippines an early 2-0 lead.
But things got precarious for the Azkals in the 23rd minute, as they were forced to play with only 10 men after Rob Gier sustained a head injury due to an accidental headbutt with a Guam player. Matao took advantage and had two scoring chances after that, but both misfired.
Gier, however, returned and made his presence immediately felt on the defensive end after preventing a breakaway goal by Guam at the 31st minute.
The Philippines continued to outclass its opponents at the end of the first half, highlighted by the three Azkals engaging in a short passing exhibition at the right flank before passing the ball to Phil Younghusband, who missed what would have been an easy goal.
The nationals quickly recovered from that miss, though, as Guirado scored a header in injury time off a nifty cross from Dennis Cagara to push their edge to a comfortable 3-0 cushion at the end of the first half.
The Azkals blew many chances to score in the second half, with Denis Wolf missing two easy goals and Younghusband missing a breakaway which could have swelled the Philippine lead.
The Matao almost avoided ending the match scoreless, hitting a goal in the 48th minute. The officials, however, voided the goal as a foul was called before the play.
The victory caps off the Azkals’ series of friendly matches this month which affect their world ranking that currently sits at 149th. They forced a scoreless draw against Suzuki Cup champions Malaysia last June 1 and a 2-2 result against Indonesia last June 5.
Veterans Chieffy Caligdong and Manny Ott both missed the friendly versus Guam after receiving red cards for their role in a melee that happened late in the Azkals’ match against Indonesia.
The victory adds to the memorable matches the Azkals have played at the Panaad Stadium, which many regard as the hotbed of Philippine football. In 2006, the nationals recorded one of the most convincing wins in team history by trouncing Timor Leste, 7-0, in the Asean Football Federation championships.
The Azkals also blanked Mongolia, 2-0, in February last year in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifiers, which is best remembered for a sensational goal from Caligdong.
With players having an average age of 22 years, Guam, ranked 194th in the world, is in the country for a week-long training camp which is part of their preparations for the East Asian Football Championships in July.
The Matao will now fly to Manila to face United Football League squads Global FC on June 14 and Stallions FC on June 16 at the Rizal Stadium.