Philippine Azkals held to 1-1 draw with Myanmar

PHL Azkals vs MYA White Angels | Photo by ABS-CBNNews.com

By Bong Pedralvez

Midfielder James Younghusband stepped up anew for the Philippines yesterday, scoring on a powerful penalty kick as the Azkals settled for a 1-all draw with Myanmar (Burma) at the start of Asian Challenge Cup Group A tournament in Yangon.

Reprising his heroics in the Azkals’ return match against Mongolia last March 15, the 25-year-old former Wimbledon reserve scored the icebreaking goal in the 76th minute as the Filipinos looked all set to beat the host team on their home turf.

The Burmese booters, who dominated the match most of the way only to be reduced to 10 men in the 72nd minute, rallied to score the equalizer in injury time to save face in front of their countrymen at the Myanmar Football Federation Center.

Both squads earned a point from the draw.

It was the second time Younghusband, the elder brother of injured striker Phil, bailed out the Pinoy booters in a span of six days. He scored the lone goal when the Filipinos dropped a 1-2 decision to Mongolia in Ulan Bator, an outcome that booked their ticket to Myanmar via a 3-2 aggregate win.

Cheered on by their countrymen, the Myanmar booters tried to impose their will early and had four early attempts, mostly on the right wing where defender Roel Gener held the fort.

The most dangerous foray came in the 35th minute when skipper Myo Min Tun beat Gener but Ray Jonsson managed to clear the ball in time.

Fil-Spanish midfielder Angel Guirado proved to be one of the bright spots for the Azkals in the first 45 minutes.

In the 32nd, the 26-year-old CD Ronda mainstay had a sizzling 20-yard drive but had no one to finish his long cross as the hosts stalked strikers Chieffy Caligdong and Ian Araneta.

Regular goalie Neil Etheridge also had a busy day, saving Yang Ping’s early header from a corner in the 8th minute.

Unable to get any production from Araneta, coach Hans Michael Weiss tapped veteran forward Yanti Barsales to start the second half.

The draw was the third straight in four clashes between the two countries who are fast becoming regional rivals dating back to 2004 when they first collided in the group stage of the Tiger Cup, now known as the Suzuki Cup.

Myanmar prevailed that time 1-0, spoiling the country’s bid to score its first international goal in nearly a decade.

Since then, the two sides have fought to three draws, the last one a scoreless standoff in the Suzuki Group tourney in Vietnam last November where the Azkals advanced to the semifinals for the first time.

After a day’s rest, the Filipinos swing back into action tomorrow against Palestine, the lowest FIFA ranking squad in the four-nation tourney at 174, 23 notches below the Azkals, who are ranked No. 151.

Filipino football fans were deprived the chance to witness the Philippines-Myanmar match live on television after the Myanmar TV network failed to provide a broadcast feed to ABS – CBN, which holds the local broadcast rights to the Azkals’ matches.

Channel 23 sportscaster TJ Manotoc said a network representative in Myanmar “begged” Myanmar broadcast officials to air the match back to the Philippines “but his plea fell on deaf ears.”

Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta Jr. said all he could do was secure a tape of the game, an Asian Football Confederation requirement, from the Myanmar organizers. The game would be telecast two days later.

“Negotiations are now underway for the broadcast rights and taped copies of MRTV’s coverage of the Azkals’ matches in Yangon,” ABS-CBN Sports said in a statement. Source