A REJIGGED Philippine men’s football team that featured a lot of new faces fared miserably against the Chicago Inferno, bowing 3-1 in their friendly at Wheaton College’s Joe Bean Stadium on Sunday.
Ranged against a younger and bigger Inferno side, the under-strength Azkals dug themselves a huge hole in the first half and never recovered in a disappointing performance.
Andrew Jeskey starred for the Premier Development League squad, scoring a brace, while Carl Haworth also struck for the Inferno, whose goals came in the first half.
Carli de Murga provided a measure of respect for the Filipino booters, scoring a late goal in the second half.
The Azkals will next play the US Virgin Islands on August 18 in a Fifa-sanctioned friendly in Indianapolis as part of a month-long US training that was skipped by popular brothers Phil and James Younghusband as well as several Europe-based regulars.
The Inferno, whose oldest player is only 21, pounced on the Azkals early on and also banked on a sturdy defense anchored on 6-foot-5 goalkeeper Reece Richardson.
Haworth opened up the scoring fray for the Inferno, firing a long bomb in the seventh minute, before Jeskey scored twice, a looper in the 14th minute and off a free-kick in the 33rd.
After having just a week of training to prepare and familiarize with their new teammates, the Azkals failed to find any groove early on and relied only on long, uncharacteristic passes and strikes that were easily thwarted by the Inferno defense.
The Azkals’ best chance in the first half was a Chieffy Caligdong header off a pass from De Murga that went straight to the chest of Richardson.
With Philippine team first-timers Matthew Uy, Demitrius Omphroy, and Patrick Reichelt substituting for Caligdong, Marwin Angeles, and Ian Araneta in the second half, the Azkals played a more organized set with more short, combination passes in the final 45 minutes.
The rejuvenated play was finally rewarded in the 73rd minute with a goal from De Murga, a Filipino-Spanish who scored his first goal for the Azkals against Guam last June.
It was the most fluid sequence for the Azkals in the entire match, with the result a Reichelt long cross pass finding De Murga, who struck from the right side of the box.
“Physicality and toughness of the U.S. game got the better of us. Great effort and much better 2nd half by the boys!” tweeted Azkals skipper Aly Borromeo, whose return to the national team was delayed once again as he was yet to be ruled in perfect shape.
The Azkals actually had more shots, 9-7, shots on target, 7-4, and corners, 7-2, but the Inferno proved to be more efficient.
The national team fielded a starting XI of Ed Sacapaño at the goal, De Murga, Jason de Jong, Jason Sabio, and Jeff Christiaens defending, Misagh Bahadoran, Chris Greatwich, Marwin Angeles, and Caligdong at the midfield, and Denis Wolf and Ian Araneta on the attack.