THE Philippine men’s football team ended more than two decades of frustration against Singapore as the Azkals blanked the Lions, 2-0, in their friendly at the Jurong West Stadium on Friday night in Singapore.
Co-skipper Chieffy Caligdong and Phil Younghusband each struck for a goal, but it was returning midfielder Stephan Schrock who paved the way for both of it as the Azkals beat the Singaporeans for the first time since 1991.
Singapore, which defeated the Azkals in their last meeting, 2-0, now holds an 8-1-1 win-draw-loss record against the Filipino booters.
It was also the Azkals’ first significant victory away from home in the last two years after their stunning 2-0 win over Vietnam in the 2010 Suzuki Cup. The game became known as the “Miracle in Hanoi,” which propelled the celebrated Filipino booters and the sport to prominence.
Despite coming as underdogs owing to their losing record against 161st-ranked Singapore, the Azkals took the fight to the Lions early on and drew a huge boost from the 5-foot-6 Schrock, who stood out as facilitator in his central midfield role.
In his first game back for the national team in more than two months, the 26-year-old Filipino-German quickly made his presence felt as he assisted on a goal by Caligdong just eight minutes into the match to the delight of the huge Filipino crowd which trooped to the stadium.
Caligdong’s strike was also aided by a mound of grass between him and the goal that altered the direction of the ball, and which the Singaporean goalie found hard to save.
Schrock underscored his importance to the team anew in the second half as his volley pass to Younghusband led to another goal in the 49th minute.
Fazrul Nawaz provided the best scoring chance for the host in the 34th minute but his goal was ruled offside.
Singapore controlled possession in the first half with a 4-2 lead in shots, shots on goal (2-1), and corners (4-1), but the Azkals turned the tables around in the second half as they flashed a more fluid game.
The match was the first home-and-home meeting between the two Southeast Asian neighbors, who meet again in Cebu on Nov. 15.
Both teams used the friendly as preparation for this year’s Suzuki Cup. The Philippines is bracketed in Group A with Thailand and Vietnam, while Singapore is in Group B with Malaysia and Indonesia.