One momentary lack of focus was all it took to spoil a terrific performance from the Philippine U15 team last Saturday night.
In the 87th minute of a goalless encounter at Rizal Memorial, an unmarked Aung Pyae Ko chested down a cross close to the six yard box. The Myanmar Mandalay FA forward coolly pounded the ball in past the left flank of Pinoy keeper Michael Asong.
The score ignited celebrations among a noisy but good-natured bunch of expatriate Burmese, and was the only goal of the game.
It was a sorry ending for Anto Gonzales' side, who had more chances and completely dominated the first half. The 1-0 scoreline deeply flattered the Burmese.
With the loss the Philippines remains at 9 points in fifth place in Group B of the Football Association of Malaysia- Frenz ASEAN Champions Trophy for 2013.
The tournament is a competition for U15 clubs in Southeast Asia, although the Philippines was permitted to enter its U15 National team. It is sponsored by Frenz United, a Football Academy based in Pahang, Malaysia. The tournament has a home-and-away league stage followed by playoffs.
In the earlier meeting between the two teams the Philippines led 1-0 on the road before the Myanmar club roared back with two late strikes to seal a 2-1 win.
The Philippines started strongly on Saturday with three chances within a span of four minutes from dangerman JB Borlongan. The Cagayan De Oro youngster flicked a volley wide, turned and shot weakly to the keeper, then hit the side netting from the left flank, all between the fourteenth and seventeenth minutes.
Halfway through the first half the Philippines almost went ahead when Mark Winhoffer's attempt was redirected to the crossbar by Mandalay keeper Poe Min Khant.
Twelve minutes later Darius Diamante headed to goal but the goalie handled it easily. Four minutes before the halftime whistle Dean Ebarle snatched a shot across the face of the goal after neat interplay from Borlongan and Winhoffer. Just one minute later Kintaro Miyago's powerful header was well-blocked by Khant.
In first half injury time Borlongan was released on a breakaway but took too many touches before smacking the ball straight at the keeper.
“He should have stayed straight towards the keeper instead of veering off to the right” said keeper coach Ref Cuaresma after the game of Borlongan's miss.
Mandalay was stronger in the second half but the Philippines still had chances, especially Diamante's attempt in the 69th minute into an empty net that Mandalay skipper Ye Yint Aung spectacularly cleared off the line.
Seventeen minutes from time substitute Lionel Limbo nearly put the home side ahead but his shot, off a Sebastian Patangan feed, was denied by the crossbar.
But three minutes from time Aung Pyae Ko had his go-ahead strike, deflating a crowd that included an eighty-strong contingent from the Dream Football Aspirants Camp.
The Campers and the U15 team will likely form the backbone of the Asian U19 championship team that will be fielded in a couple years.
The Pinoys had two chances to equalize. Diamante's 92nd minute free kick was flicked over the bar by the keeper. Moments later Limbo squandered a great chance from the left flank when he shifted the ball over to his favored right foot, allowing the defense to swarm and nullify the opportunity.
The team is composed of players from all over the nation, including Mindanao, Negros, Cebu, and Metro Manila. One standout NCR player was centerback Josh Miller from International School Manila, who displayed plenty of composure whenever he was pressured.
The Philippines has one more home game that will be played sometime in August.
Follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.