MANILA – Philippine Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley was full of praise for goal-keeper Roland Muller after the national team’s 2-0 victory over Turkmenistan in Group B of the AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives.
Dooley credited Muller with keeping the Philippines alive several times during the match, especially in the first half when Turkmenistan repeatedly tested the Azkals’ defense.
"The goal-keeper has won four or five games for us on his own, and he doesn't have to score a goal just to keep us alive," Dooley said, as quoted by maldivesoccer.com.
"With all the saves he did today, and saving the penalty, (he) actually helped us to win the game," he added.
Towards the end of the first half, Muller twice came to the rescue for the Azkals as he saved Ruslan Mingazov’s shot from outside the penalty area, and then blocked a penalty by Aleksandr Boliyan with three minutes to go.
Muller has stepped up in the absence of first-choice goal-keeper Neil Etheridge, who played in the tournament opener against Afghanistan, but has since missed the next two fixtures due to a thigh injury.
Dooley said that though goal-scorers Phil Younghusband and Patrick Reichelt deserve praise, Muller should also be given a share of the spotlight.
"Most likely, if we have somebody who has scored the winning goal – a beautiful goal from Patrick or a beautiful goal from Phil – those are the people put on the spotlight," he said.
"But today, we have to recognize that the keeper is the one who kept us alive," Dooley stressed.
Muller’s two key saves kept Turkmenistan scoreless going into halftime, and Younghusband scored just four minutes into the second half off a free kick that curled into the net. At the 74th minute, Reichelt secured the victory with a spectacular goal off a cross from Martin Steuble.
The Philippines have thus advanced to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup for the second consecutive time, and will play hosts Maldives on Tuesday at the National Stadium in Male.