Azkals held to scoreless draw by 10-man Thailand in thrilling Suzuki Cup home semi
Misagh Bahadoran chances some scoring chances against Thailand. Jaime Campos

THE Philippine men’s football team settled for a scoreless draw against a Thailand side that went a man down in their Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup semifinal matchup on Saturday, leaving the Azkals in a must-win situation in the return leg on Wednesday in Bangkok.

The Azkals conjured numerous clear-cut chances, but just lacked the finishing quality to score a coveted goal in front of a boisterous home crowd that nearly filled the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Still, it was a remarkable result for the Filipino booters against a seemingly unconquerable opponent in the War Elephants, who have had their number for more than four decades.

“I’m happy with the zero-zero, but a bit sad because we didn’t score,” Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said in the post-match press conference. “I think we deserved to have a goal.”

The Azkals, though, can advance to the final with a scoring draw at the Rajamangala Stadium as an away goal has greater value.

Phil Younghusband created the best scoring opportunities, including a free kick that was just saved by the goalkeeper in the first half and a close-range chance off a nifty through ball by Daisuke Sato only for his path to be obstructed by a Thai defender.

The Azkals also failed to pounce on a golden opportunity when the Thais went down to 10 men after Adisak Kraisorn was sent off with a straight red card following a scuffle with Amani Aguinaldo in the 68th minute.

The Filipino booters saw flashes of the Thai team that blanked them, 3-0, in a friendly last month as they became recipients of an early barrage, but held strong to force a rare scoreless outing by their opponents, who reeled after seeing top striker Kirati Keawsombat leave early with an injury.

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