It was a win but... The Azkals got the W but it wasn't the rout many expected. The first half wrote a check that the second half couldn't cash. We were clearly the better team, with more chances and goals, but we should bully a team ranked 45 slots below us at home. That just wasn't the case on Tuesday. The 3-0 scoreline flatters Guam. It really should have been something like 5-0.
Angel is The Man. I used to wonder if Angel Guirado was a wee bit slow for international football. Those concerns have long since been put to rest. The big striker scored his sixth and seventh International goals in style last night. His first score was a long strike that found the top corner past Guam keeper Dallas Jaye. Through his cousin/interpreter Rafa Garcia he told us afterwards that he adjusted his kick from a cross to a shot at goal at the last instant when he saw Jaye's position. Wow. His second was a delectable glancing header off a Dennis Cagara cross. Rather than take the simple option of banging it to his left, he took the cultured route, steering it to his right, where Jaye never had a chance. These performances just might make the Global man a target of other Asian clubs.
Marwin Angeles had a terrific night. The Fil-Italian set up Carli De Murga's maiden Azkal strike with a simple, well-weighted pass. He also cooked up two more dangerous chances with passes. In previous games he has struggled to make an impact, but not tonight.
Greatness will have to wait for another day for Denis Wolf. Give him an "A" for effort but less for execution. The long-maned striker shot wide in the 58th minute, wide in the 61st, and straight at Jaye six minutes later. He'll have to be more clinical if he is to help the Azkals grab a Suzuki Cup crown. To be fair, Phil Younghusband also fired blanks last night.
Guam are not a bunch of stiffs. The visitors gave a good account of themselves. Props to coach Gary White. While they lacked the overall technical quality of many of the Azkals, they were obviously well-prepared. They made up for a ragged first half with a courageous second. A well-organized defense thwarted numerous Azkals attacks, while they managed a few chances of their own. Defender Josh Borja gets my Guam Man Of The Match Award. He made play after play on defense and even pitched in on attack. They certainly played with more enterprise than the Mongolians did last year.
The Azkals have finally dusted off Anto Gonzales and given him another cap. Once a regular Azkals starter, Anto Gonzales finally gets a well-deserved appearance in the new Azkals era. He served up a decent shift but didn't have time to put his stamp on the match. The U.P. Maroons mentor is a workhorse on defense and a fountain of ideas on offense. I hope he gets more playing time, but with a surfeit of quality midfielders, it might be tough.
The organizers dropped the ball on the ticket pricing, depriving us all of a better home game atmosphere. Really? P200 for the CHEAPEST TICKET? More than the cheapest ticket in the last Manila game? For a friendly against the 194th best team in the world? In a provincial city? A reality check was desperately needed. The end bleachers did eventually sort of fill up, but the center bleachers never did. At P600 a pop, the sides of the grandstands were mostly populated by invisible Bacolodnons. This in contrast to the rowdy, packed-to-the-rafters feel of last year's Mongolia game. Last Tuesday's vibe was nowhere near that. Plus, the energy of the crowd petered out even more as the second half wore on. Every effort should be made to make each home game a sell-out. The cheapest ticket should have been P100 or less, and P200-300 sounds about right for a side grandstand seat.
Where were the Ilonggos and Negrenses? Not a single one got a minute of action tonight. Say what you will, but it just didn't sit well with me in a game held in Bacolod. Plus the homegrown players who were on the roster were all familiar faces. While our neighbors are giving their rising stars valuable international experience, we are going with thirtysomethings. Just sayin'.
Coach Weiss has a dozen or so new white hairs thanks to Neil Etheridge's terrifying impression of a field player in the first half. He showed off some nifty dribbling moves under pressure off a back pass. Might he have been too adventurous?
Gotta love the Guamanian 'staches. Some members of the Matao made a splash in the facial hair front. Josh Borja sported a neatly manicured box, while Ian Adamos' well-groomed lip-topper might be his lucky charm for corner kicks. But captain Jason Cunliffe led the way with a handlebar that would make a Fu Manchu impersonator proud.
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