HANOI – The Philippines booked their slot in the semifinal round of the AFF Suzuki Cup after they eliminated traditional powerhouse Indonesia following a decisive 4-0 win at My Dinh Stadium Tuesday night.
It was a monumental game for Thomas Dooley’s squad as they defeated Indonesia for the very first time in history.With this win, the Philippines has advanced to the knockout stages for the third consecutive time, and with a game to spare.
“I am obviously very happy that we reached the semifinals in the second game,” said Dooley. “Every single player in the field from the goalkeeper up to the two substitutes had an excellent performance.”
With only one change in the Starting XI from the win over Laos, the Philippines made a fantastic start early in the first half. Misagh Bahadoran capitalized on an errant Indonesian back pass, and was brought down by Firman Utina inside the box, giving the referee no choice but to blow his whistle and give a penalty. Azkals skipper Phil Younghusband calmly converted the penalty, bringing his tournament tally to two goals, and his 42nd international goal.
However, concerns mounted in the back four when Juani Guirado was forced to leave the match after he injured his leg defending Indonesia’s Sergio van Dijk. Guirado was replaced by Rob Gier, who made his first appearance in the tournament.
Reichelt came close to doubling the Azkals’ lead on numerous occasions, but the winger failed to add to his tally of two goals.
Despite being a goal behind, the Indonesians put up a strong showing as they forced Patrick Deyto to make a couple of sensational saves right before half-time.
But Indonesia’s hopes of an equalizer were dealt with a blow when Manny Ott made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute. From a Philippine counter-attack, Bahadoran provided a low cross to Ott, who controlled it before sending a screamer that sailed into the top-left corner.
Martin Steuble joined the party in the 68th minute, scoring the Philippines’ third goal following an Indonesian defensive mishap. The referee called an indirect free kick inside the penalty area. Younghusband quickly passed the ball to Steuble who sent it into an unguarded goal.
Gier, who joined the match early in the first half, dealt the final punch in the 78th minute by scoring a fourth goal. The defender’s initial header from Ott’s cross was denied by the upright, but the ball made its back way to him and he slotted it on goal.
The Azkals now have six points and are still at the top of Group A. Vietnam is in second after thrashing Laos, 3-0. The Philippines face Vietnam on Friday, November 28 at My Dinh Stadium. A draw will be enough for the Philippines to get the top seed. Kickoff is at 8 PM, Manila time.