THE Philippine men's 23-under football team stood its ground against an experienced United Football League All-Stars side in forging a 1-1 draw Sunday night at the packed Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill, Taguig.
Still without their top players who are either recovering from injury or abroad, the 23-under Azkals nevertheless showed chemistry on the pitch in their first competitive match on home soil as a team to the delight of the huge crowd.
The Starting 11 delivered in their own right, but it was substitute David Fornea who shone brightest for the 23-Under Azkals as the San Beda standout scored the tying goal barely a minute after coming in the 64th minute.
Despite the stalemate, it was still an impressive result for the 23-under side, which is hoping to see action in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.
“Hopefully if people can see these up-and-coming boys and see they deserve to play, then that's our aim,” Philippine coach Brian Reid said.
Gaining experience from their 1-0 loss to their Singaporean counterparts in a friendly last month, the 23-under Azkals had numerous link-up plays that led to chances that skipper Mark Hartmann and Joshua Beloya, however, failed to convert in the first half.
“I was pleased with our performance, but on another night, I felt we should've won the game,” Reid said.
“A lot of young players haven't really played on this magnitude so there are a lot of pluses that can be taken from this,” the Scottish mentor added.
The UFL All-Stars, composed of current and former national team mainstays and foreign stalwarts, drew first blood in the second half courtesy of Global's Izzo El-Habbib.
Two minutes later, though, the 23-under Azkals retaliated with Fornea's goal off a rebound from his own missed header.
“I was pleasantly surprised of the performance of the (23-under Azkals),” All-Stars coach Ernie Nierras said. “Even though they played against older guys, they were all composed.”