Azkals suffer first loss in Suzuki Cup after 3-1 beating at hands of host Vietnam
Paul Mulders score the lone goal in the Azkals' 3-1 loss to Vietnam.

HANOI - The honeymoon phase is over for the Philippine men's football team.

Showing they still have a lot to improve on, the Azkals suffered a 3-1 beating at the hands of Vietnam at the end of Group A hostilities of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup on Friday night at the My Dinh National Stadium.

Facing a familiar foe that had the home crowd of more than 30,000 people behind them, the Azkals trailed early on and then fell into a deeper hole in the second half to suffer the disappointing defeat.

The host team thus denied the visitors a hat-trick of victories after the Filipinos had their number in their past two meetings, including a stunning 2-0 victory in the 2010 edition in the same venue that sparked the Azkals phenomenon.

The Azkals are still bound for the semifinals, but finished Group A in second spot and will face the top seed in Group B, which will be disputed between Thailand and Singapore.

“The spark was missing today,” Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said. “Our defense didn’t do an excellent job.”

“It was well-deserved for Vietnam to win,” the German-American mentor added.

Ngo Hoang Tinh, Vu Minh Tuan, and Pham Thang  Luong were on target for the host team, which scored twice just eight minutes apart early in the second half to take control.

Paul Mulders, who was activated in place of injured Patrick Reichelt and came in as a halftime sub, provided a glimmer of hope with a goal off a Jerry Lucena cross in the 59th minute.

But there were no miracles this time for the Filipinos.

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