HANOI – Patrick Reichelt scored two goals in the second half, coming off the bench as the Philippines rallied from a one goal deficit to defeat Laos, 4-1, in their AFF Suzuki Cup opening fixture at My Dinh Stadium, Saturday night.
It was an all-out attack start from the Azkals as skipper Phil Younghusband had a couple of chances early in the match. However, the Azkals conceded to Laos in the 21st minute when Khampheng Sayavutth scored off a free kick.
Despite being a goal down, Coach Thomas Dooley’s squad remained composed and in search of an equalizer. They came close in the 31st minute as Jerry Lucena slid the ball on goal but a Laos defender cleared it off the line.
The Azkals’ resilience paid off in the 40th minute as Simone Rota scored the equalizer. Manny Ott delivered a corner from the right side and found Rota who was unmarked and towering over the defense. Rota’s header sailed past Laos goalkeeper’s Soukthavy Soundala’s right side.
Younghusband turned the tide right before half-time with another header to put the Philippines ahead 2-1. Against the run of play, Jerry Lucena delivered a precise cross into the box, which the Azkals skipper nodded home.
Looking to extend their lead, Dooley fielded Reichelt for Mark Hartmann in the 66th minute. The winger made an immediate impact in the match, scoring in the 77th minute. Younghusband delivered a weighted ball for Reichelt, who calmly sent the shot past the goalkeeper to give the Philippines a 3-1 cushion.
Reichelt doubled his tally late in the match. Again, it was Younghusband who provided the assist as Reichelt tapped the ball in to complete the result.
Coach Thomas Dooley commended his side’s spirit, which did not break down after Laos’ opening goal.
“The first game is always the most difficult game,” said Dooley. “We just have to put one of those goals away.”
“Overall, we had 25 minutes where we really struggled in the first half but the rest of the game we created more chances and got the victory.”
The Azkals walk away with the complete 3 points and are currently at the top of the table because of Vietnam and Indonesia’s 2-2 draw.
The next assignment for the Philippines is against Indonesia on Tuesday, November 25 at My Dinh Stadium, kickoff is at 5 PM, Manila time.