by Jonas Terrado
Game Thursday (Hanoi, Vietnam)
8:30 p.m. – Vietnam vs Philippines
(Vietnam leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Patrick Reichelt couldn’t hide his disappointment after the Philippine Azkals were pushed on the brink of another semifinal exit in the AFF Suzuki Cup with a 2-1 loss to Vietnam in Sunday’s first leg at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
Reichelt’s equalizer before halftime went for naught as Vietnam got the lead back minutes into the second half courtesy of Phan Van Duc, putting the Azkals in a precarious situation in Thursday’s return leg in Hanoi.
The Golden Stars not only lead on aggregate but also hold the away goals advantage with Nguyen Anh Duc also finding the back of the net with the opener in the 12th minute.
“I’m here the third time in the semifinal, and if we go out here losing and giving our all, I don’t mind. But (our performance) was a disappointment, clear disappointment,” Reichelt said.
“I don’t want to go out a third time in the semifinal,” added Reichelt. “This is my third tournament and every time we go into the semis, we’re not going through because we don’t play with heart.”
Heart is something the Azkals need to show at My Dinh National Stadium, something that was evident eight years ago when the Philippines shocked the region with a 2-0 upset of Vietnam in the 2010 Suzuki Cup group stage.
“Time for a new miracle in Hanoi,” tweeted Azkals goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard, whose saves late in the home tie prevented Vietnam from producing a third goal.
For that to happen, the Azkals will have to find a solution in getting through the seemingly impenetrable Vietnamese defense, which hasn’t conceded a goal prior to Reichelt’s header off Phil Younghusband’s cross.
The Azkals had 55 percent of ball possession but the midfielders like Reichelt and Stephan Schrock encountered difficulty against Vietnam’s press.
“They get so many bodies behind the ball that they’re difficult to break and maybe if we didn’t score we would’ve gone into the next game thinking it’s a bigger challenge,” said Younghusband, who kept an optimistic approach going into the Vietnamese capital.