Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA Philippines -- Goal keeper Patrick Deyto saved the day for the Philippine Azkals which secured another scoreless draw against at the Cebu City Sports Center on Sunday.
Malaysia was on the verge of beating the Azkals after being rewarded with a penalty kick late in the game when Deyto deflected Safee Sali's attempt to the goal.
The save preserved the goal-less deadlock and allowed the Azkals to walk away with another draw against Malaysia in the final stretch of their preparations for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup.
"I wasn't really thinking too much on the penalty. Luckily he (Sali) placed it there and I was able to tip it away," Deyto said after the game.
Save for that scare in the 90th minute, the Azkals looked impressive, particularly in their consistency in attacking the Malaysian's goal.
They managed to force the Malayan Tigers to their heels minus some of their Fil-European players.
The Filipino booters were deadly in the second half, with Nate Burkey and Martin Steuble nearly scoring on their attempts. Burkey fired a shot that could have won the game but was denied by the crossbar in the 77th.
Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said the Azkals played well compared to their friendly in Malaysia on March 1, where they were also held to a scoreless draw by the host. "This was a better game than the one in Malaysia," he said.
Dooley added that the game was crucial for the Azkals' morale before heading to the main draw of the Challenge Cup.
"It's important for us to play here in Cebu. It gives us confidence heading to the Challenge Cup," said the German-American coach.
Dooley said he has yet to make the final lineup for the AFC Asian Cup-qualifying Challenge Cup, which will begin late in May. But he said he is happy with the level of football his pool is playing.
“I have so far 30 players who can play and I’m very happy with the performance of the players,” Dooley said.