By NIKOLE JAVIER
The Philippine Azkals couldn’t pull off a graceful exit against Indonesia after falling short, 2-1, in the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 on Monday night, Jan. 2, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
The Filipinos wrapped up their group stage with a loss at the hands of the second seed team, taking with them their lone 5-1 triumph over Brunei last Dec. 26.
It was actually Thailand and Indonesia’s 1-1 draw last Dec. 29 that pushed them into elimination in this edition of the tournament.
The first couple of minutes saw the Azkals in aggressive form, constantly pressing on The Garuda’s defense on several attempts.
But the promising start would do little damage as Dendy Sulistyawan sprung back to action in the 21st minute with a header off a throw-in by Pratama Arhan.
The Indonesians went on to make it a comfortable 2-0 lead just seven minutes before the break and this time Saddil Ramdani’s assist found the efforts of Marselino Ferdinan inside the box.
Team captain Stephan Schrock, who played his final game with the Azkals, in turn, didn’t leave the Philippines empty-handed on their home soil with a lofted pass that translated into a score off Sebastian Rasmussen’s header.
The breakthrough at the 83rd though wouldn’t be followed up by an equalizer, leaving the Azkals with a record of 1-3 in the tournament’s group stage.
Azkals head coach Josep Ferre, who took the post just a month ago, remained proud of how the national team showed up, convinced that their commitment offered a revealing read of what’s to come in the near future.
“In this tournament, I am very proud of the level that the players showed today. They showed an awesome commitment. with the team, with the people. They fought all the games and we arrived here. I think everyone can see that this team is growing. We have a lot of players just getting their first experience we the national team,” said Ferre.
Over at the Thammasat Stadium, Thailand sealed the top seed in Group A following a 3-1 victory over Cambodia, putting them in the competition further along.