CEBU CITY , Philippines – Azkals coach Thomas Dooley’s faith in his wards didn’t diminish a bit even if they blew their chances for a victory in Sunday’s scoreless stalemate with Malaysia before a good-sized crowd here.
Dooley said he liked the way the Pinoy booters kept pressing on the visiting Tigers and expressed confidence they will hit the mark next time when they embark on the ultimate campaign in next month’s AFC Challenge Cup.
“I’m very confident that we can play good games against teams in the Challenge Cup and just hope in the end, maybe score the goal or two more goals that we need,” the German-American mentor said.
“In football, you can never say anything up front; you can never say we’re the favorites, you always have to play every game. We don’t play against Spain, Argentina or Germany; we play against teams we can beat and the one who want it most will come out with the victory,” he added.
The Azkals dominated the Tigers most of the way, keeping ball possession and creating scoring chances that they just couldn’t convert.
The home side also had to bank on an amazing penalty save by keeper Patrick Deyto against Safee Sali late in the match to escape with a second straight goal-less draw with the Tigers.
“Forget about the last five minutes, I think we deserved to win (this match),” said Dooley.
The former US team skipper utilized a predominantly Phl-based crew, with only Jerry Lucena and Matrin Steuble coming over from Europe, but they more than held their own against the Tigers.
“I’m very happy with how the players played. We talked about putting pressure on Malaysia and just let them play long ball and I think we did an excellent job on that in the first half. Second half, it was a little bit difficult because the players got tired. But in the end, it was a good game and I’m very happy with the performance,” he said.
“Happy about the result? No. I would love to win the game, especially when we’re in a home game and we had such beautiful crowd. Even if they’re happy, we would have wanted to make them happier had we gone home with the victory,” he added.
Deyto was the star of the night, thwarting that penalty taken by Safee and securing the draw for Phl.
“It was like 50-50 for me. I gambled on one side and luckily, he (Safee) played it there so I got it,” said the youthful keeper, who made a full stretch to tip Safee’s kick away.
He later dedicated the save to teammate Ed Sacapano, who did a similar heroic two years ago in a 1-0 win over Singapore in the same venue.
Forward Nate Burkey, who failed to connect on three scoring opportunities in the second half, gave their keeper the props.
“When you miss your chances but your keeper saves a PK right after. Big up to Deyto for saving the day,” he said.
Dooley wouldn’t blame his strikers too much for firing blanks.
“This is football. It’s important that we create these kinds of chances because next time, they might be able to convert them,” he said.