By Mars G. Alison
It was the goalkeeper playing hero once again for the Philippine Azkials.
This as Patrick Deyto stopped a penalty kick in injury time to preserve a 0-0 draw against the Malaysia Tigers in the FIFA Friendly dubbed Face Off 2 last night at the Cebu City Sports Center.
It was the fourth stalemate in as many games since 2012 for both teams.
During the post-match press conference, Deyto said that he gambled on one side and fortunately for the Azkals rookie, Malaysia’s Mohd Safee Mohd Sali sent the ball to the same side which allowed him to deflect it sending the spectators to their feet in jubilation.
Malaysia earned a penalty due to a handball.
Deyto had been brilliant all throughout the match wherein he started by stopping all three attempts of the Tigers in the first half.
Despite the draw, Malaysia Tigers head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee said the Philippines played better last night as compared to their match last March 1 in Kuala Lumpur.
“This is a very different match from the last that we played in Kuala Lumpur. The Philippines played better in terms of moving the ball. Their level of confidence was good as motivated by the crowd. They pushed us very hard but the boys defended well,” Datuk Ong said during the post-match press conference.
He singled out the performances of Jason de Jong, Martin Steuble and Deyto as very impressive.
The Malaysian added that he had decided to send in his defensive players and was glad that he did as the Azkals was very aggressive in attacking the goal with three near attempts in just the first 10 minutes of the match.
Datuk Ong, however, pointed out that despite what had already been an impressive performance, the Azkals still lack the mental sharpness in front of the goal which would have allowed them to score.
The Azkals had as much as 10 attempts in the first half alone.
Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley, however, said he does not mind the attempts that were not converted and that he is happy with the performance of the team.
He attributed the Azkals’ improved performance last night to having spent more time with them compared to their match last March 1 when he took over the helm of the team only two weeks earlier.
The Azkals started out aggressively and dictated the tempo of the game forcing the Tigers to focus on defense until halftime.
The Tigers played better offense in the second half while continuing to put up with more attempts from the home team.
The closest that the Philippines would have scored was on the back-to-back attempts of Nathan Burkey who came in to sub Jose Elmer Porteria.
Datuk Ong said that with what he had seen, the Philippines is prepared for the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Challenge Cup in Maldives but will have to work on scoring goals.
The Philippines will leave for Maldives next month wherein it was drawn to play in the group that also has Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Laos.
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