Myanmar deals Azkals 2nd straight finals heartbreaker

MANILA, Philippines -- Lightning struck twice for the Philippine Azkals.
By Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star)

Barely recovered from their numbing bridesmaid finish in the AFC Challenge Cup, the Azkals suffered another heartbreak as they bungled their title drive in the PFF Peace Cup 2014 at home, dropping a 2-3 setback to Myanmar in extra time Saturday night.

“It’s a big disappointment really to lose two finals in the space of three months. It’s really hard to take especially here at Rizal, seeing the other team jumping around and celebrating,” said skipper Rob Gier after the Azkals failed to exorcise the ghost of their 0-1 defeat to Palestine in the Challenge Cup finale last May with a conquest at Rizal Memorial.

The Azkals positioned themselves on the verge of a third consecutive Peace Cup crown after seizing a 2-1 lead off Phil Younghusband’s 70th minute penalty kick and maintaining it going to the late stages of the first 90 minutes.

But the Burmese pounced on a free-kick off a foul by Misagh Bahadoran to knock in the equalizer, a header by sub Min Min Thu in the second minute of stoppage time that stunned the crowd and spoiled their looming celebration.

Soo Min Oo, another sub, delivered the killer blow in extra period and tapped it in at the 100th minute, putting the Azkals on the backfoot and desperate to go for the game-tying goal or even snatch it. The Pinoy booters switched to 3-5-2 in the second half of extra time, even sending keeper Roland Muller into the Myanmar goal at one point to join a set piece late in the match.

“Obviously I hate losing, especially losing in finals.” said coach Thomas Dooley, who went 0-for-2 now in championship matches. “I don’t think it was a great game for us and I think we didn’t step up to the level we can actually play. I don’t know exactly why.”

Myanmar needed just eight minutes to draw first blood, with Kyaw Ko Ko firing a shot from way out that hit the crossbar, ricocheted on the side post and went in.

Daisuke Sato connected from long range in the 49th to knot the count and Younghusband provided the go-ahead cashing in on the penalty kick won by Patrick Reichelt 21 minutes later. Then they faded.

“We could have maybe wasted time like they (Myanmar) did in overtime or I should have brought in fresh legs before (the) 90 minutes (mark),” said Dooley.

It’s back to the drawing board for the Azkals, who are training their sights on the AFF Suzuki Cup diadem in November.

But first, they have to learn to “play their best” in the biggest game of every tournament.

“We’ve had so many games in the last seven months where we played very nice and there were two games we didn’t play nice – against Palestine (Challenge Cup finals) and part of today’s finals (versus Myanmar). It’s maybe something we have to learn. Where it really counts, we have to be 100 percent. And I have to do everything I can to make it right,” said Dooley.

He cited how most teams in the Fifa World Cup don’t usually play great in the first couple of weeks but finetune themselves and get better until they play great in the finals.

“We’re not playing our best in the finals,” he said.

Gier said they’re charging this one to experience.

“These two finals (losses) will hopefully give us the experience we need when we come to the finals of the Suzuki Cup, which I’m sure we’ll get to. Maybe whatever happened in the last couple of months will give us the strength to go the extra mile (come Suzuki Cup),” he said.

http://www.philstar.com/sports/2014/09/07/1366482/myanmar-deals-azkals-2nd-straight-finals-heartbreaker

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