Azkals coach unfazed despite loss to China in World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers

Published June 8, 2021, 5:19 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Philippine Azkals’ midfielder Stephan Schrock (right) maneuvers between China’s Wu Xi (center) and Al Kesen during the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification football match at the Sharjah Football Stadium in the Sharjah in the UAE on June 7, 2021. (AFP)

Coach Scott Cooper said the Philippine Azkals were able to show once more that they can make things tough for China despite ending up on the losing end of their World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers match.

The Azkals fell 2-0 Monday night, June 7 (Tuesday morning, June 8) in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, but not before limiting the chances of China to score while creating their own opportunities in the first half.

It wasn’t until the 56th minute when the Azkals caught a bad break when keeper Bernd Schipmann fouled Lu Wei in the penalty area, resulting in a goal from the Chinese striker from the spot.

A second goal courtesy of Wu Xinghan in the 65th made it difficult for the Philippine side to salvage a point in their first match since Nov. 2019.

“We showed again that we can control China,” said Cooper, referring to the scoreless tie during the two teams’ first meeting back in Oct. 2019 in Bacolod City.

“We didn’t give them many chances in the first half, we just lacked that little bit of fitness and it was that one bad mistake in midfield that led to that penalty which opened the game.”

“But we were comfortable so it was similar to Bacolod. We got nine or 10 players who are not here so I’m proud of my players. I think they did a very good job but kudos to China, they deserved to win the game,” he added, mentioning how several players had to beg off from suiting up in the joint qualifiers.

The Scottish coach hailed debuting defender Jefferson Tabinas for providing the toughness on the back that kept Lu Wei and naturalized player Elkesson at bay in the first 45 minutes.

But Cooper lamented the loss of another debutant in Michael Kempter, also a defender, in the first 15 minutes after an apparent elbow to the nose courtesy of Tang Miao.

Cooper expressed disappointment that the Chinese player wasn’t booked for the incident, but he was more incensed by what he was told at halftime by South Korean referee Hee Gon Kim.

“When I asked the referee how (Kempter) broke his nose, he said ‘Haha, I think he broke his own nose.’,” Cooper said. “I don’t think he should be refereeing for a long time because clearly that is unacceptable behavior from an official.”