THE Philippine Azkals showed what Filipino resilience is all about on Tuesday night.
Defying the odds, the men’s football team retained its Philippine Peace Cup title following a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Pakistan at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
The Azkals shrugged off an early deficit and banked on the playmaking brilliance of Stephan Schrock as they brought joy to a partisan crowd that was still reeling from a high-magnitude earthquake that rocked the City of Smiles and ravaged neighboring Visayan provinces just hours before.
Schrock, Patrick Reichelt, and Chris Greatwich struck for the Filipino booters, who put their title-retention bid in peril after suffering a devastating 1-2 loss to Chinese Taipei last Friday, but was given a lifeline after the Pakistanis beat the Taiwanese, 1-0, last Sunday.
The Philippines, Chinese Taipei, and Pakistan ended up tied with three points at the end of the three-day tournament, but the Filipino booters emerged with the superior goal difference of +1.
The Taiwanese finished second with a GD of 0, while Pakistan rounded out the standings with a -1 GD.
Kaleem Ulah stunned the napping Azkals by firing the opening goal 15 minutes into the game that left the Filipinos with a huge hole to climb.
But Reichelt, thrust into a starting role after hardly seeing action in the opener, repaid his coach’s faith by scoring the equalizer off a neat feed from Schrock in the 33rd minute.
The Azkals turned the game around late in the second half when Chris Greatwich found the back of the net in the 78th minute following a rebound and a cross from James Younghusband, who scored the Azkals’ only goal against Chinese Taipei.
Four minutes later, the Filipinos survived a scare after goalkeeper Neil Etheridge saved a dangerous shot by Saddam Hussein.
Reichelt then returned the favor to Schrock as the former assisted the latter with the championship goal two minutes before stoppage time.