SEA Games 2011: Azkals face Timor Leste in crucial tiff today

By Olmin Leyba

Thrust into a must-win situation by a heartbreaking 1-3 setback to Vietnam in the opener, the Philippine under-23 Azkals go for the full points against Timor Leste today in the 26th Southeast Asian Games football competitions in Jakarta.

The Filipinos take the field of the Stadion Lebak Bulus at 4 p.m. (5 p.m. in Manila), hoping to get a win against a Timor Leste side coming off a 2-1 win over Brunei Darussalam the other day.

“We got the strong team out of the way,” said Phl striker Mark Andrew Hartmann, referring to the Vietnamese, runners-up the previous SEAG in Laos two years ago.

“We need every win from now on,” added the Fil-British, whose team is gunning for its first-ever SEAG football medal.

Vietnam and Myanmar, which played to a scoreless draw the other day, hold the joint lead in Group B with identical four points on one win and one standoff. The Timorese stands at solo third with three points (one win) ahead of scoreless sides Phl (one loss), Brunei (one loss) and Laos (one loss).

The U23 Azkals hope the two full days of rest have revitalized the Euro-based players like Roland Muller, Manny Ott, and Jeffrey Christiaens who joined the team two days prior to the Vietnam match.

“The problem with us in the game against Vietnam was the fact that we had several players who were still jet-lagged from their long flight (from Europe) and that was the reason why they could not play at the optimum level,” Phl coach Michael Weiss said in the post-match press conference.

The Filipinos jumped the gun on the Vietnamese, 1-0, only to yield three goals in the second half, allowing the latter to escape with the win. The scoreline would have been a lot more embarrassing for Phl if not for for Muller, who thwarted a number of one-on-one shots by Vietnam, which enjoyed the tempo and bigger chunk of possession throughout.

The Filipinos had their usual early morning drills yesterday as Indonesia observed the Idul Adha (Indonesia’s version of Abraham offering his son Isaac to God).

Team officials said the coaching staff has made serious discussion on the strategy in preparation for the match against the Timorese. Published in The Philippine Star