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Philippines 1, Singapore 0 postgame thoughts.
Ed Sacapano played the game of his life. Forty years from now a graying Eduard Sacapano will grab a grandson, place him gingerly on his knee, and tell him the story of Thursday's game. I hope he remembers every last delicious detail of it.
Lets get this over with: Ed seemed to move off his line an instant before Shi Jiayi kicked the penalty. Theoretically there should have been a re-take. Do I give a rat's posterior about getting away with the non-call? Absolutely not. Ed read Shi like a book and parried the ball to safety. It was still a great piece of goalkeeping. Besides, the penalty should never have been given. If anything it was Khairul Amri who barged backwards into Jeffrey Christiaens.
Tats Mercado saved a PK against Vietnam in the 2002 Tiger Cup. Louie Casas stopped one in the 2004 edition of the tournament. Neil Etheridge made a big blank in the Challenge Cup. Pinoy keepers just have a way of stopping penalties, and this was yet another example.
But the penalty save was just the beginning for Ed. In the 78th minute he made a spectacular diving stop on Shahdan Sulaiman's gloriously taken free kick, then a minute before time makes an even better one on yet another free kick, this time from Shaiful Esah.
Darren and I were talking in the van back to the hotel about how we rarely see Ed play this well in the UFL, where his leaky defense hangs him out to dry on a regular basis. Just last week he allowed a terrible goal against Mark Hartmann. On that play he appeared to be possessed by the spirit of Rene Higuita and came about forty yards off his line for little reason, resulting in an easy opening goal.
There were none of those howlers on Thursday. Just one super save after another. The best players raise their game the higher the stakes. We saw that with Ed. If neither Neil Etheridge nor Roland Muller is available for the Suzuki Cup, Ed Sacapano just might be able to hold the fort.
Sorry Marwin Angeles, but the Man of The Match goes to the keeper.
[RELATED: Sacapano superb as Azkals nip Singapore]
Can we stop this nonsense and just start the brothers when they are healthy? I would like to say that great tactical adjustments led to the second-half awakening for the Azkals. But I can't. James and Phil Younghusband may spend too much time frying steaks in corporate gigs and shilling for facial cleansers. Maybe James loses his cool at times. BUT WHO CARES. They are significantly, obviously, better than those who have started ahead of them lately.
This game was a redux of the Indonesia home game early this year. They don't start, we don't score. They go in, and next thing you know the ball is in our opponent's net.
Both brothers had a hand in the goal, with James offloading to Phil and Phil producing a peach of a cross that Patrick Reichelt knocked back to Marwin for the finish.
Late in the game Phil unspooled a couple of dazzling crosses that Denis Wolf agonizingly failed to convert.
This game revealed one of Phil's most underrated assets: his ability to whip out inch-perfect crosses at will.
One day other players will knock the brothers off their perches and unseat them from their lofty place in Pinoy Football. We are not quite at that moment yet. On November 24 against Thailand, they should be in the starting eleven. Leave the stabilo-colored vests for others.
Rob Gier and Juani Guirado put the clamps on Aleksandar Duric. It's not every day that a pair of centerbacks aged 32 and 33 need to deal with someone around a decade older than they. But the Philippine defenders get top marks in dealing the Singapore's ace substitute. They were solid all throughout the evening, and it bodes well for the Azkals, since the two, along with another thirtysomething, Ray Jonsson, will likely form 3/4ths of the back four in Thailand. But having said that, Demit Omphroy at right back is a great option as well.
Cebu was a great venue, and one chap in a red white and blue wig enjoyed it more than anyone. I hope this isn't the last Azkals game in Cebu. Perhaps the UFL can have a Cup final here too. The field was brilliant, for starters. I liked how it was composed of densely-packed native grass, which must be plenty cheaper than the bermuda of Rizal Memorial. The crowd was large and the Cebu Kaholeros were well-organized and enthusiastic. I love it how the win extends our Visayan unbeaten streak, now played over four different grounds, to seven games.
[RELATED: Azkals take on Singapore in Cebu]
But this was an extra special night for Graeme MacKinnon. The sixtysomething Australian who coached Global for a spell this year lived in Cebu for fifteen years, coaching youth teams after his playing days in Manila were over. He mentored dozens of players and coaches, including Mario Ceniza, the coach of Cebu Queen City. I first saw Graeme in Panaad in either 2005 or 2006 in Azkals games. The man known online as Ceburoo was decked out in his wild superfan outfits as early as then.
For sure he relished this moment like no one else.
You can follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.
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