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Filipinos out to avenge first-leg loss to Indonesians
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 18 - 12 - 2010

MANILA: The Azkals Philippine national football squad vowed Friday to go all out to avenge its 0-1 loss to Indonesia Thursday night as the two squads square off anew Sunday in the second and final match of their ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup semifinal series also at the jampacked Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Despite the loss, the Filipinos can still win the tie and advance to the final if they beat the Indonesians by at least two goals in their next match. In case the Azkals score 1-0 in regulation time to level the aggregate scores at 1-1, extra time will be given to break the tie. If the scores remain tied after the extra time, a penalty shootout will determine which team advances to the finals.
However, Indonesia advances outright to the finals with another win Sunday. A defensive lapse cost the Philippines the match Thursday as an apparent miscommunication between Filipino goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and fullback Ray Jonsson allowed Indonesian striker Cristiano Gonzales to head in the lone goal in the 32nd minute.
Talking to reporters Friday morning, Philippine head coach Simon McMenemy attributed the loss to the “out of this world” noise level at the Jakarta stadium packed with some 70,000 red-shirted, screaming and cheering Indonesian fans, including Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife.
McMenemy likened the noise to that inside a jampacked disco where one has to scream at someone's ear to shout a message. He said because of the noise, Etheridge bumped into Jonsson near the goal, allowing the Uruguayan-born Gonzales, also known as El Loco, to sneak in a header.
Nevertheless, he expressed confidence that his boys remain focused and will go for the win this Sunday despite all the odds.
Phil Younghusband, one of the Azkals' top strikers, also blamed the noise level inside the stadium for the loss.
He said he had never played in a stadium louder than that. Even if a teammate was just a meter away, they could not hear each other due to the nonstop screaming and cheering of the spectators, he said.
Younghusband admitted that the Indonesians also played great defense. He said he had two solid attempts early in the game despite being hounded by two or three Indonesian defenders, but these were saved by the Indonesian keeper.
“They pulled back a bit more than we expected and that took us a bit by surprise ‘cause we normally expect them to attack and we prepare with our counterattack,” he said.
In the 74th minute, the Azkals again had a good chance to score a goal, but Joel Ballo-Allo's bicycle kick near the goal failed to hit the mark.
Younghusband said a tweak in the Azkals' offensive strategy may be needed in Game 2 for the team to advance to the final. In last Thursday night's game, the Filipinos dominated possession and clearly had more chances at scoring with their aggressive offensive plays which confounded the heavily favored Indons.
The Azkals showed outstanding improvement compared to the Philippine squad in 2002 which suffered a humiliating 13-1 defeat to the Indons.
Before the Azkals' 1-0 loss to the Indons Thursday, the Filipinos were unbeated in three matches and had conceded only one goal in this year's AFF Suzuki Cup.

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