THE new-look Philippine men’s football team just keeps getting better after it held a higher-ranked Bahrain side to a scoreless draw in their friendly on Saturday at the opponent’s home turf in Manama.
Despite being goalless, the result was something the 147th-ranked Azkals can be proud of as they refused to be intimidated by an opponent ranked 32 spots ahead of them.
Even with the team fielding seven new players in the starting XI, the Azkals sustained the same cohesion they displayed in their recent title conquest in the Philippine Football Peace Cup in Manila two weeks ago.
The Azkals had lesser possessions in the first half, but had more and better shots, attempting six, including four on goal, against Bahrain’s four shots, two on goal.
The Azkals’ best chance in the first half came in the 30th minute when Denis Wolf slipped past his defender and took Bahrain’s goalkeeper one on one, only for his close-range shot to be denied.
OJ Porteria, who came in late in the match to provide a spark, likewise provided a glorious scoring opportunity in the 90th minute.
The Azkals fielded a completely different backline compared to the back four frequently seen in the Peace Cup in Manila last month, with Ray Jonsson, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, and Dennis Cagara as the defenders, this time.
Roland Muller, the starting goalkeeper, saved Bahrain’s best chance in the 65th minute.
The Azkals will now fly to Kuwait to face the host’s national team three days later. They wrap up their 10-day Middle East training camp on Oct. 17.