Football: Young Azkals salvage draw against Timor Leste in AFF U-23

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 14 2022 07:45 PM

The Philippine under-23 team. PFF photo.
The Philippine under-23 team. PFF photo.

The Philippine men's under-23 national team twice came back from a goal down to seize a 2-2 draw against Timor Leste in their first game of the AFF U23 Championship, Monday evening at the Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Former National University standout Ivan Ouano grabbed a brace to salvage a point for the young Azkals in Group A of the competition.

"Timor Leste have a good team, they've been together for three months, and we've been together for three weeks," said Philippines coach Stewart Hall. "I think we showed great character to come back and get the draw."

It was a disastrous start for the Philippines as a foul inside the box led to Timor Leste scoring after just six minutes, with Mouzinho sending Quincy Kammeraad the wrong way to bury the penalty.

"I'll be interested to see the replay of the penalty, because it looked very soft, from where I was," Hall said after the match.

Timor Leste dominated possession throughout the first half, but the Philippines got on the board through Ouano shortly before the halftime break.

Jaimito Soares put Timor Leste ahead again in the 55th, overcoming the defense of Philippines skipper Oskari Kekkonen to fire to the lower left corner. 

But just seven minutes later, Ouano struck again, flicking in the ball after Timor Leste 'keeper Junildo Pereira failed to make a clearance off a corner kick. 

The Philippines had a few more chances, including in the 92nd when they won only their second corner of the match. Nothing materialized from the opportunity, however, and each side came away with a point.

"We fought, and we came back," said Hall. "It's a new squad, it's a young squad, and we haven't had much preparation. But I'm really pleased with the boys."

"We made mistakes, but we'll work on those," he added.

Timor Leste coach Fabio Margao was admittedly disappointed not to have taken three points.

"We know we deserve to win the game," said Margao. "We conceded two goals by our mistakes. We were more in control, we created some chances that we should have finished. But this is the game."

"We'll see what we did wrong and try to correct it in the next one," he added.

The Philippines will play again on February 17 against host Cambodia, still at the same venue.

The top team in each of the three groups advance to the semifinals, as well as the best second-placed team.