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4:30 p.m. – Thailand vs Singapore
8 p.m. – Philippines vs Indonesia
The Philippine Azkals were left to regret missed opportunities that led to a scoreless draw against Singapore in Saturday’s opener of the AFF Suzuki Cup at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The Azkals failed to score with seven shots on target, despite getting a big advantage following a straight red card on Singapore defender Hafiz Abu Sujad for kicking Phil Younghusband in the 35th minute.
Despite little Mike Ott and substitute Pika Minegishi injecting speed on the attack, the Azkals couldn’t find the back of the net even as Singapore resorted to time-wasting tactics and a defensive-minded strategy known as “Park the Bus” until the final whistle.
No one was more disappointed than Minegishi, whose international debut was spoiled by three missed chances, including a clear shot on goal that sailed way over the crossbar with less than 10 minutes in normal time.
“I was unlucky, my skill was bad,” the Fil-Japanese midfielder said, his voice sounding apologetic when scribes caught up with him at the mixed zone area.
Azkals coach Thomas Dooley was not only frustrated that the marginal goal eluded his team all evening, but also with Singapore’s apparent scheme of playing for the tie.
“It’s obvious that (Singapore) tried to park the bus, but it’s part of the game,” Dooley said in the post-match press conference. “I don’t like it, but we had great opportunities to score and we didn’t finish.”
The stalemate put the Azkals in a must-win situation tomorrow night against Indonesia. While another draw will keep them in the hunt for one of the two semis berths in Group A, the Filipinos need the maximum three points in order to gain an inside track.
Plus the Azkals close the group stage on Friday against defending champion Thailand, a team many believe would win the tournament.
While Thailand won 4-2 on two late goals by Teerasil Dangda, Indonesia leveled the contest with two quick goals before the hour mark.
Indonesia can also give the Azkals’ converted right back Kenshiro Daniels and tidy centerback Amani Aguinaldo threats with Rizky Pora on the left and Boas Salossa up front.
“It’s like a little final already,” said Azkals midfielder Stephan Schrock. “We saw very few minutes of their game against Thailand but Indonesia is very good, very strong team.”