SHAH ALAM (1 June 2012) – Malaysia, the reigning AFF Suzuki Cup holders, should have walked away with a victory against the Philippines at the Shah Alam Stadium tonight. Instead, it was the visitors who earned a rare draw in a friendly game which is part of both teams’ preparations for the coming edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup later this year.
Playing without several of their top players, the Philippines, losing semifinalists in the last AFF event, did remarkably well to contain the Malaysians. Some of the new faces in the team were impressive and will be good additions to the team. If they combine well, the Philippines will be able to field a strong side that will surprise all their Asean neighbours.
Despite the draw, the Malaysians proved that they had ample firepower in their ranks with the likes of Safiq Rahim, Safee Sali, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and several others. They will however have to tidy up their finishing which clearly was a letdown tonight. They have more than five months to work on their chinks before the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup kicks-off in November.
The Azkals gave the Malaysians a nasty scare seconds after the kick-off. Stephen Schrock pounced on a weak back pass and could have hit in the opener, but goalkeeper Farizal managed to save the day by snatching the ball away from the midfielder’s feet.
The visitors settled in quickly and took the fight forward but despite moving into scoring positions, they were unable to make their shots count.
Malaysia managed to squeeze in a few a counter-attacks one of which in the 17th minute saw Safee shoot straight at the goalkeeper. It was probably his best chance of the first half.
Just past the half hour mark, the pony-tailed Dennis Wolf came agonisingly close to breaking the duck when his attempt beat the Malaysian keeper but rolled past the upright. Strikers Wolf, Angel Guirado and the tattoed Schrock in the middle proved to be dangerous and were a constant bother to the Malaysian defence.
In the dying minutes of the half, Shahurain Abu Samah was left screaming in despair as his shot came off the post.
In the 49th minute, Norshahrul Idlan knew Safiq Rahim was behind him and unselfishly left it to Malaysian skipper. Safiq however could not control his shot and saw it sail just inches past the post. Safiq missed a freekick soon after but those close calls seem to fire up the Malaysians.
Four minutes past the hour mark, Guirado’s cross from the right was pushed away by the keeper into the path of Schrock who miss-timed his volley in front of goal. Down the final stretch, the Malaysians were in control but missed a slew of chances.
They could have walked away with a few goals but their players had extremely poor finishing which continued all the way to the end of the match.
Pix: Courtesy of Mark Cristino