Indonesia defeats PHL Azkals in AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup, 2-1

INDONESIA denied the Philippines and the retiring skipper Stephan Schrock a go-out-with-a-bang moment in the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup, beating the Azkals, 2-1, Monday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

First-half goals by Indonesia’s Dendy Sulistyawan (21’) and Marselino Ferdinan (43’) proved too much to overcome for the youth-laden Filipinos, who wrapped up their campaign with their third loss against a lone win for three points and fourth overall in Group A.

Indonesia, with 10 points (three wins and one draw), advanced to the semifinals as group runner-up behind fellow 10-pointer Thailand, which took the top spot on superior goal difference, 10 against nine. The defending champion War Elephants sealed their group win via a 3-1 conquest of Cambodia in Pathum Thani.

It was not the ideal ending for the new-look Azkals, who were looking to finish strong and give Mr. Schrock a winning send-off.

“Obviously we wanted to win before finishing the tournament. I thought we gave a good fight and the performance was something we can all be proud of regardless of the result,” said the Fil-German veteran, who in one of his final acts set up Sebastian Rasmussen for the 82nd-minute strike that gave the team and 2,370 home supporters a sliver of hope.

The 36-year-old Mr. Schrock performed his final duty as a national team player after 11 years, 57 caps and six goals.

“It was an emotional day for me. Just grateful for the past 11 years. I hope some of you enjoyed me also,” he said.

Mr. Schrock believes despite the missed semifinal bid, the transitioning Azkals are on the right track.

“We have a bright future with them. The young ones are very, very promising,” he said. “It’s a very smart move from the federation and management to start the transition now. We wouldn’t see immediate results in this tournament but it’s a long-term concept…we’ll see the results in the near future, just be patient.”

Defending champions Thailand and last year’s beaten finalists Indonesia advanced to the semifinals of the Asean Championships on Monday with wins over Cambodia and the Philippines respectively.

The Thais sealed top spot in Group A as Teerasil Dangda scored twice for the hosts in Pathum Thani to secure a 3-1 win over the Cambodians while Indonesia took second spot with a 2-1 victory against the Azkals in Manila.

Mr. Teerasil gave Mano Polking’s side the lead when he struck a penalty into the top corner two minutes into first-half injury time and Sumanya Purisai doubled the advantage five minutes after the restart with a side-foot finish from eight yards.

Sieng Chanthea pulled one back for Cambodia as he cut on to his left foot to score in the 68th minute but Mr. Teerasil made the points safe in injury time when he scored from the edge of the area.

The Thais topped the standings on goal difference from Indonesia after both nations finished the group phase with 10 points from four matches.

The semi-final line-up will be completed on Tuesday when Group B leaders Vietnam will take on Myanmar while second placed Malaysia host Singapore, with matches to be played on a home-and-away basis on Jan. 6 and 9.

The final of the regional tournament will also be played over two legs, with games to be held on Jan. 13 and 16. — Olmin Leyba with reports from Reuters