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Indonesia ‘lightning' hits Philippines twice
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 21 - 12 - 2010

MANILA: The Philippine Azkals held their heads high Sunday night even after another 1-0 loss to Timnas Indonesia in the second leg of their semifinals series in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup at Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta.
Curiously, the same Indonesian striker who scored the winning goal, a header, in the first leg of their semifinals match - Uruguay-born striker Christian “El Loco” Gonzales – netted Sunday when he scored in the 43rd minute with a thundering left-footed kick from 75 feet amid a phalanx of defenders.
The ball soared high to the right corner of the goal, barely past the post and above the outstretched arms of a leaping Neil Etheridge, the Azkals' 20-year-old goalkeeper.
Indonesia thus won the tie on aggregate, 2-0, and will face Malaysia in the finals after it dethroned reigning champion Vietnam via a 0-0 draw in the second leg of their semifinals match Sunday in Hanoi. Malaysia had earlier beaten Vietnam 2-0 in the first leg of their semifinals in Kuala Lumpur.
Despite the Philippines' loss, commentators were one in saying that the Filipinos - who used to be the region's whipping boys in the football field - had vastly surpassed expectations as they gained the respect of the region by advancing to the semifinals with a stunning 4-0 win against Vietnam and holding powerhouses Singapore and Myanmar to draws.
After Indonesia, the Philippines conceded the fewest number of goals in the tournament, only three in five matches.
In Sunday night's match, the Azkals once again showed flashes of brilliance with Phil Younghusband making a dazzling pirouette in the 60th minute to escape two defenders. But his shot was saved by the crafty Indonesian goalkeeper Markus. In the 57th minute, Chris Greatwich jumped for a well-timed header only to see the ball land on top of the net.
In the 69th minute, Anton del Rosario made a bullet shot from the middle, but the ball bounced off the chest of the Indonesian goalkeeper.
The Philippines had nine scoring attempts, with two shots on goal. Indonesia had more attempts - 15 - with eight on target.
Etheridge once again shone on defense, making seven saves compared to Markus' two. However, Gonzales' long-range thunderbolt was too fast and too powerful for Etheridge to catch or parry.

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