Photo courtesy of Philippine Football Federation
By Kevin Estrada
LIPA, BATANGAS — An unexpected leader in Group A came to wrap up the opening weekend of the Copa Paulino Alcantara after the Philippine national under-22 men’s football team came up with a tight 1-0 win over Green Archers United Sunday evening at the Aboitiz Pitch.
Preparing for their homestand in the Southeast Asian Games, the Young Azkals grinded out a highly charged nailbiter to take all three points and zoom to the top of their group, following Ceres-Negros’ shocking four-goal stalemate to Mendiola yesterday.
Right from the opening whistle, Milos Simic’s side made their intentions loud and clear, as if to say that they were only formed last August as they build up for their homestand in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in November.
The Young Azkals have enjoyed the better quality of their attacks, as Chima Uzoka became the most guilty of missing their chances as he hits both sides of the posts wide.
Not to be outdone, the Archers made sure that they also got their opportunities count, as Joel Villarino mixed and matched his side with speed and relentless pressure that will give their youthful counterparts a lesson or two with regards to their Group A opposition.
With his missed chances in his mind at the break, Uzoka made his opener in the second half count in the 50th minute, when he headed home a Jerome Marzan corner to put the Young Azkals ahead.
Yrick Gallantes could have doubled their lead four minutes later, but his shot was denied by the right post, as Anthony Pinthus would thank his backline in keeping a clean sheet.
GAU goalkeeper Henri Bandeken Fong also stood up to the challenge, as he denied Jarvey Gayoso’s last-second effort to keep the game close.
However, the league’s best newcomers could not get the equalizer as they faced a letdown end after unused substitute Gregory Yang was sent off for dissent by referee Mick Jon Pineda in injury time.
Green Archers United: Fong (GK), Mbang, Paolo Bugas (Jurao 86′), Bedia, Angeles (C), Cubon, Celiz (Pasilan 72′), Fornis, Ariola (Zubiri 84′), Marcellana, Appiah
Philippines U22: Pinthus (GK) (C), Suerti, Pocholo Bugas (Borlongan 67′), Uzoka (Corbitt 72′), Brigoli, Limbo (Suba 46′), Gayoso, Gallantes, Diano, Jarvis, Marzan
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