The Philippine Azkals are now playing better than ever.
Coach Sven-Göran Eriksson said this after the Azkals found a hole in Thailand’s defensive formation that gave them a chance to force a 1-all draw Wednesday night in a rain-soaked 2018 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup at the Panaad Park and Stadium.
The coach noted that when the Thais switched from their usual 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 formation, Filipino Jovin Bedic struck with a right-footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner in the 81st minute after getting assisted by John-Patrick Straub.
The draw put both teams on the top of Group B on similar 2-1-0 win-draw-loss records for seven points.
The Singapore Lions (2-0-1) are behind the Azkals and the War Elephants after their 6-1 win over Timor-Leste at the Singapore National Stadium.
The Azkals and the Thai War Elephants are just one ahead of Singapore heading into the final matches on Sunday.
With both in contention for the semifinals, Thailand plays host to Singapore in Bangkok, while the Azkals will be in Jakarta to meet eliminated host Indonesia.
“I think we played well throughout the match and for me, we were the better team as we created more opportunities. The result was fair. We could have won it, but I’m very happy with the performance of the team. I think they did well against a very good side,” said Eriksson.
The Thais, who have never lost to the Philippines in recent times, were supposed to win when they had a chance to score again in the 85th minute.
But their attempt was ruled an offside, when Thai booter Sanrawat Dechmitr tried to go for a through ball to Sasalak Haiprakhon.
At that time, the Thais were not pressing higher than they usually do, allowing Cali de Murga and Fil-Spaniard Alvaro Silva to bring possession up to near the halfway line.
Eriksson praised Silva after he was also finally able to suit up for the Azkals, since his presence was key to their central defense.
“Alvaro Silva is a fantastic defender. And I think that he can play in any level even in Europe,” praised Eriksson.
The War Elephants, who tightened up on their defense in the second half, got their lone goal from Supachai Chaided, who capitalized on a counterattack and dribbled past the Azkals’ defense in the 61st minute.
It was tiring day for the Thais, who spent an extra day in Manila on Monday after their connecting flight to Bacolod City was called off due to Tropical Depression Samuel.
The Thais fielded in their second team in the premier ASEAN meet. It was their first loss to the Azkals in their last 16 meetings in 46 years.