By JONAS TERRADO
The Philippine Azkals ended their AFF Suzuki Cup campaign with Bienvenido Maranon scoring a hat trick in a 3-2 victory over Myanmar Saturday at the Bishan Stadium in Singapore.
Maranon produced all of his three goals in the first half to give the Azkals a comfortable lead before staving off a late Myanmar rally to gain the maximum three points and finish third in Group A of the pandemic-delayed competition.
With two wins and two defeats, the Azkals fell short of making the semifinals after suffering similar 2-1 setbacks to host Singapore and group winner Thailand. The other win came against Timor-Leste with a 7-0 rout.
“I think tonight has been a mini-run of the things that we could have done better in the tournament,” said Azkals coach Stewart Hall.
Hall made changes to his starting 11 with nothing at stake, opting to use his younger players like Yrick Gallantes and Oskari Kekkonen as team captain Stephan Schrock has already left the Lion City to tend to his pregnant wife in Germany.
Maranon was also put back up front following a curious decision to insert him as a sub very late when the Philippines needed an equalizer in the last game.
But Maranon made sure he would end the tournament on a high amid rainy conditions at the tournament’s alternate venue, firing the opener in the 16th minute after a scramble at the penalty area.
It didn’t take long for him to double the Azkals’ lead when Maranon lofted Iain Ramsay’s cross from the right flank in the 19th.
His third came in the 44th as Martin Steuble bended a cross for Maranon, who headed the ball to make it 3-0 for the Philippines.
Myanmar pulled one back in the 74th as substitute Htet Phyo Wai scored on a counterattack before cutting the deficit to a single goal in the 86th.
But Myanmar never made any serious threat to sneak an equalizer as the Azkals held on to take the win.