By: Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Ending the elimination round with a dominating victory against Timor-Leste, 6-1, the Philippine U-22 Azkals still fell short of earning a semifinal spot in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games Football event.
Securing the 6-0 lead they needed to advance to the semis, Timor-Leste then broke the Azkals’ hearts as they scored their lone goal in the late minute of the game, spoiling PH’s semis berth.
Instead of the Azkals, the Cambodian squad was the ones who qualified for the semis with their 3-1 convincing win against the Indonesians.
Knowing that they needed to score as many points as they could to punch a ticket to the semis, the Azkals started the game in high-octane fashion as they ran and ran to push the tempo and attacked as much as they could.
With 4 minutes in the opening half, team captain Stephan Shrock drew first blood with the early goal, sending a message to the young booters that they needed to score every possession.
The spark that Shrock gave the team ignited them to score every time, as defensive specialist Amani Aguinaldo increased the cushion to 2-0 as the half was about to close.
Joining the goal fest was Mar Diano, as he converted a beautiful header courtesy of a Shrock looping free-kick.
With time drawing to a close, the Azkals doubled their effort to score, making a race against time to qualify for the semis.
PH’s Dylan De Bruycker then struck another goal to make it 4-0 and increased the hopes of the PH nation for a possible semis spot.
With 12 minutes left in the match, Aguinaldo lifted the PH crowd to a frenzy as he cashed two additional goals in a span of five minutes.
With high hopes of a semis entry, all eyes were on Timor-Leste’s possession but found themselves in a positive outing, preventing a scoreless game against the PH squad, and destroying PH’s dreams of a semis spot.