The smallest --and youngest -- Azkal stood tallest on the playing field Wednesday night.
All of 5-foot-5 and just 18 years old, OJ Porteria scored the marginal goal that mattered to power the Philippine men’s football team to a 1-0 victory over Myanmar in their friendly in Yangon.
The host controlled possession and had more shots throughout the game, but it was the Azkals who had the last laugh as the Filipino-American Porteria, given time and space from about 30 yards, fired the missile that determined the outcome in the 78th minute.
The victory is the second straight for the Azkals against Myanmar since their 2-0 win in the final game of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup group stage in Bangkok last November.
Neil Etheridge also shone in his return to national team duty as the 6-foot-3 Filipino-British goalkeeper denied numerous Myanmar attempts, including the White Angels’ best chance – a shot from inside the penalty box – in the 74th minute.
With Manny Ott, a natural midfielder, standing in at right back, the Azkals looked vulnerable on that spot, giving Myanmar most of its chances from the left flank.
“We were lucky to have that win,” Azkals manager Dan Palami said in television interview shortly after the match. “They had better chances but just could not finish. And of course, Neil was there to give them a difficult time.”
“And we were lucky to have OJ make that goal,” Palami added as the Azkals only had eight attempts (four on goal) compared to Myanmar’s 14 (nine on goal).