Monday, February 13, 2012

Azkals step up to beat Al Ahli 3-1

source: Roy Moore |

A Denis Wolf goal sandwiched between two goals from Phil Younghusband put the Azkals in a commanding position before Al Ahli scored a consolation goal through Ali Solaiman Abshiri in the 57th minute.

First Half

The game started in bizarre fashion as Al Ahli seemingly gave a testimonial to a former National team and Al Ahli goalkeeper, reported to be Hussein Al Hamdi. Obviously out of shape now, he comically managed to block a Phil Younghusband shot early in the game, struggling to get back up for the rebound, but luckily the Qatari side’s defense managed to clear the ball.

Minutes later the defense played a backpass to the former goalkeeper, who may have been playing too much five-a-side football lately as he picked the ball up with his hands, giving away an indirect free-kick. Clearly seeing enough, the Ah Ahli Manager substituted Al Hamdi as both teams lined up to shake his hand as he left the pitch.

Normally, substitutes simply leave the pitch to applause, but it at least meant that the usual Al Ahli goalkeeper could come on.

With an indirect free-kick six yards from goal, James Younghusband rolled the ball back for his brother Phil, who smashed the ball into the net, giving the Azkals the lead at the 9th minute.

With both teams passing and moving well, the two cancelled each other out for much of the game. Angel Guirado fashioned a good chance when he won the ball, beat two men down the left wing and knocked the ball into the center. Unfortunately, the Azkals lining up in the box were too indecisive and the keeper came out to dive on the ball first.

Pushing forward, Al Ahli was caught on the break again when Phil Younghusband played in Denis Wolf. His marker chased him and Wolf laid it back for Angel Guirado, who played a smart through ball for James Younghusband. Racing onto the ball, he just got there first but his touch was deflected by the keeper to Denis Wolf who was lurking in the box. Wolf then scored his first international goal, guiding the ball into the net.

Second Half

After the break Al Ahli emerged from the tunnel in a slightly different kit, changing from vertical green stripes to horizontal green stripes. Something else highly unusual in football, the change may have been because Al Ahli substituted much of the starting lineup, putting on more of their first team players. The goalkeeper also bafflingly had a line taped on the back of his shirt as a makeshift number one.

Al Ahli pushed high in search of a goal but it was the Azkals who struck anew. A Müller goal kick went straight through to Phil Younghusband who clipped the ball past the onrushing keeper to put the Azkals up 3-0 with his second goal of the game.

Soon after Al Ahli made their possession count as a free-kick bounced around the area before falling nicely for Ali Solaiman Abshiri, who lashed the ball into the bottom left corner.

On the restart, Al Ahli again looked to attack but the Azkals continued threatening on the counter, with Marwin Angeles spreading the ball wide for James Younghusband, who put the ball on a plate for his brother Phil, but he could only manage to blast the ball over from eighteen yards out.

It was a good chance and Younghusband had the next chance too as another good ball over the top from Angeles sent him through on goal. Holding off two defenders well, the keeper closed the angle and the Loyola forward blasted over again.
Late into the game the Azkals could have extended their lead as Angel Guirado won a penalty, skipping past the keeper who slid in. Replays showed the keeper made a great challenge and won the ball cleanly though but the referee still gave a penalty. Guirado stepped up to take the kick himself but he struck it against the post.

With Al Ahli making a lot of substitutions to give players experience, it took until the 80th minute for Weiss to finally make a substitution by contrast. He brought on Misagh Bahadoran for Angel Guirado, with the Fil-Spanish winger clearly wincing as he left the field.

Famed for rarely going to his bench, it is highly likely that this is the lineup Coach Weiss is looking at for the Challenge Cup in March.

Ian Araneta then came on for Wolf, while Joshua Beloya was given a few minutes of the game, replacing Phil Younghusband before full-time. In injury time Weiss replaced Jason De Jong with Lexton Moy, giving the Kaya playmaker one and a half minutes on the field.

Improved Team

Overall, the performance was far improved from the outing against Uzbekistan. Though Al Ahli is clearly not as good as the Uzbeks, the Azkals took advantage and looked far more solid in every area. Chasing the ball and looking far more comfortably technically and tactically, Ray Jonsson started at left back, allowing Carli De Murga to take his usual right back slot, making the defense much more organized, as a result. Defensively the team deserves praise for their improvement, and in midfield, Marwin Angeles in particular stood out with some sublime passes.

Football analyst Jaron Genota perhaps summarized the improvement best, joking about defender Jason Sabio’s much improved performance on Twitter (@jarongenota), “Whoever kidnapped the old Sabio, wala kami balak magbayad ng ransom. You can keep him.” - AMD, GMA News