The U22 Azkals’ preparations for next year’s SEA Games got a great boost after holding Malaysia’s U22 squad to a goalless draw in a friendly at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Thursday night.
The host team for the 2017 edition of the biennial meet showed an encore of its 4-1 domination over the 2019 host in Malaysia in their last meeting by going on attack mode in the first half, but the latter held on defensively.
The U22 Azkals then turned the tides in the restart, going aggressive to the goal as the U22 Malaysians began losing steam.
The U22 Azkals came very close to a goal in the 62nd minute as Jeremiah Borlongan got a piece of the ball just as a Malaysian defender was letting his netminding teammate grab it and flicked it to a now wide open goal mouth. The defender cleared the ball out just before it went in.
Despite the fatigue setting in, Malaysia kept the Azkals in check, leading to the deadlock at the final whistle.
Still, Coach Marlon Maro expressed positive feedback for the U22 Azkals.
“I am satisfied because I saw a lot of potential . . . We have a team that plays aggressive football that can catch up with Malaysia in terms of speed and agility,” said Maro, who fielded in a team with a majority of people also eligible for the 2019 SEA Games
On the other hand, Coach Frank Earnhardt lamented the lack of readiness for the said friendly that cost Malaysia a repeat of its dominance the last time out.
“Our players were tired from the holidays when they were called up, so we only have few preparations,” he rued.
Both teams will continue their SEA Games buildup next month and will take some time off for Christmas.