Tuesday, March 15, 2011
First Thoughts on Azkals vs Mongolia Leg 2
*Credits to Mongolain_azkal_ako : http://www.flickr.com/photos/60618037@N05/ for the photo.
First off, congratulations on the Azkals for going through on aggregate. This is one instance where defeat equates to victory.
We had a two goal lead to protect, which became a three goal cushion four minutes into the game. From there, the onus was on us not to concede four goals.
Okay, we may have put our foot off the pedal for a while. For a few glorious minutes, many of us would have said ala Andy Gray 'Game, set, Match' when James scored the opener.
Everyone is talking about the weather. So, let's talk about it.
How many of us armchair 'fans' have actually played in subzero weather in front of a hostile crowd?
It is true that blaming the weather is a very convenient excuse. But in this case, the excuse if a perfectly valid one. Most especially, when the place you just came from to acclimatize just experienced a huge tragedy which led to tremendous loss of life.
Puts your 'game' in perspective, right?
To the game proper, I just thought that maybe we took a long time to warm up to the game. The early goal settled nerves, alright. But it may have lulled us into a false sense of security whilst we haven't really settled down and warmed up to the game yet.
The first partnership of Jason Sabio and Aly Borromeo in Central Defense was always going to be an issue. More so because they only had two (or three?) days to meet prior to the game to talk, and only one (??) training session to work it out on the pitch?
The panel of experts had a valid point in maybe opting to move Anton to Central Defense alongside Aly. Just maybe Coach Weiss sees the Sabio/Borromeo partnership to be one for the future, and gave this combo a 90 minute runout. We shall see next week.
The Ray Jonsson in Midfield experiment gets another runout in Mongolia. He's a great defender, but I am not a fan of him being in Central Midfield. But who would you put in the CM slot, with Jason de Jong pulling out at the last minute?
This Jason de Jong issue, by the way, needs more print space and lots of investigative research. Abangan.
Our wing play was excellent as always. James and Chieffy controlled the flanks. With some better decision making, we could've scored more.
Ian had a decent game. He played tirelessly upfront and even created a chance out of nothing by dispossessing the Mongolian defense on one instance. But he really, really has to get a goal. Right now, he couldn't even score even if he was left alone in the red light district.
Roel Gener for me was Man of the Match. He had his iffy moments, but time and again, his timely interceptions stopped Mongolia's attacks. He's a right footed player playing leftback, for crying out loud!
Eduard Sacapano did have a decent performance. Would be too harsh to blame him for the two goals. We're forgetting he saved a penalty. Mongolia scored goal number two on the rebound off a penalty miss. But, as always, comparisons to Neil persist. Would Neil have saved both goals?
Simon Greatwich was really non existent for me. A lucky boy not to be red-carded on that very, very rash two footed challenge on the 59th minute.
Apologies after the game by the Azkals wasn't necessary, but fans appreciate the gesture. As one die-hard azkalera put it, they are apologizing because they are warriors, and warriors hate losing. Which is a good sign.
And finally, let's give some credit to the Mongolians. They had a game plan. And a damn good game plan at that. Defend stoutly away from home, where they are unaccustomed to the weather. Attack and attack at home, where they are used to the weather.
Remember that the team who plays the home leg in the second game usually has a slight advantage in that they know how may goals they need to score. AND if they did indeed force us to a goalless draw in the first leg, they would certainly have won it here.
Overall, a game which the Azkals would like to forget.
Bottom line, we got the job done.
We're moving on to the next qualification stage, despite the loss.
The journey continues.
Watch this space for the full post match report.