Azkals fall to Singapore in SEA Games opener

The U23 Philippine national football team started their SEA Games campaign with a slim 1-0 loss against host Singapore at Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore on Monday, June 1. 

As decided underdogs against the Singaporean Young Lions, the Philippine Azkals failed to notch their first win in the tournament.

The Singaporeans clearly dominated the opening half with attacks led by left-winger, Mohamad Sahil. The Singaporean number 7 pounced on the Philippine defense with numerous shots including a long range strike in the 38th minute which was saved superbly by Philippine goalkeeper, Junjun Badelic. 

The Azkals were given their chances at scoring a goal. Their best chance of the first half came in the 28th minute where the FEU Tamaraw, Paolo Bugas’ cross found Jinggoy Valmayor, who could not find the target with his head.

The Young Lions pushed on for a goal and their efforts were awarded. At the stroke of half time, Sheikh Abdul Hadi flicked a free kick with his head past Badelic, giving the Singaporeans the lead.

The second half started differently with the Philippines creating more opportunities and putting pressure on the Singaporean lead. Three chances were made by the Filipinos in the first fifteen minutes of the second half. The best came in the 57th minute with a darting run by Patxi Santos, but it was shot straight at the goalkeeper.

The Singaporeans regained the control of the game in its latter stages. The Young Lions too were given chances but were not capitalized, as they could not find the target. Whenever the Singaporeans found the target, Junjun Badelic kept the Azkals in the game until the end with a string of saves.

The loss leaves the Philippines with no points for the group stage of the tournament. Their next game will be against Cambodia on Wednesday, June 3. -