Schrock-led Azkals put Lions to the sword

Philippines continued their preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup in fine style on Friday evening as they cruised to a 2-0 win over Singapore.

The Azkals showing plenty of desire...

By Gabriel Tan at the Jurong West Stadium

Azkals captain Emelio Caligdong opened the scoring in the eighth minute when his deflected shot looped over Hyrulnizam Juma'at and into the back of the net, before Philip Younghusband wrapped things up four minutes into the second half when he raced through on goal and clinically fired into the bottom corner.

However, the star of the show was undoubtedly Philippines midfielder Stephan Schrock, who laid on assists for both goals and was, for most of the 90 minutes, completely unplayable in the middle of the park.

The manner in which Michael Weiss' charges outplayed their opponents would have pleased the German coach, especially considering they had played out a 0-0 draw with Cambodia just two days earlier and had arrived for Friday's game having not trained since.

Singapore, on the other hand, were without a host of key players through injury, including Aleksandar Duric, Juma'at Jantan and Isa Halim, although they were boosted by the return of talismanic captain Shahril Ishak, who was absent from their last game against Hong Kong.

Four minutes in, Shahril nearly made an instant impact when he picked up the ball just inside the Philippines half and threaded a visionary pass through to Shi Jiayi, only to see the Home United captain fire straight at Neil Etheridge from six yards out.

And just four minutes later, the miss proved costly as the visitors took the lead following a sweeping counterattack. Winning possession from Hariss Harun on the halfway line, Paul Mulders immediately sent Younghusband racing down the right, who in turn picked out Schrock inside the area. Despite being completely unmarked, the Hoffenheim man unselfishly slipped the ball to Caligdong, who cut inside Jufri Taha before hitting a shot that deflected off Baihakki Khaizan and over a hapless Hyrulnizam.

Buoyed by taking the lead, the Azkals began to dominate proceedings and in the 22nd minute, Shrock nearly carved open the Singapore defence again when he lofted a clever ball in search of James Younghusband, but Daniel Bennett was alert to the danger and put in a timely interception.

Three minutes later, Philippines came close again when Philip Younghusband raced through on goal after Mulders had nodded a poor clearance from Hyrulnizam into his path, only to screw his shot just wide.

Despite Lions coach Radojko Avramovic deploying two holding midfielders in Mustafic Fahrudin and Shahdan Sulaiman, neither of them was able to shackle Schrock, who was beginning to be a real creative influence for his side. Three minutes after the half-hour mark, the 26-year-old played another terrific pass for the overlapping Carli de Murga, who forced his way into the box but just failed to keep his shot on target.

Singapore then had the ball in the back two minutes later when a freekick from Shahdan was half-cleared to Shi, who drilled the ball back across the face of goal for Fazrul Nawaz to tap in, only for the strike to be chalked off by the linesman's flag.

And while they had spent much of the first period on the back foot, the Lions ended the half looking the more dangerous of the two sides. Two minutes before the break, Shi met a long ball by Bennett with a firm header that was parried unconvincingly by Neil Etheridge straight into Jason Sabio, who looked on in relief as the ball sailed just wide of the far post and bouncing off his body.

Desperate to add a different dimension to his attack, Avramovic decided to bring on Agu Casmir for Fazrul at the break, but it was Philippines who continued to dominate proceedings and four minutes into the second half, they doubled their advantage.

Picking up possession just inside the Singapore half, Schrock played an incisive ball to Philip Younghusband, who advanced into the box after beating Hariss in a one-on-one challenge before clinically firing into the bottom corner.

The same combination nearly worked again twice shortly after as Schrock continued to dissect the hosts' defence with his visionary passing, but on these occasions, Philip Younghusband was unable to beat Hyrulnizam, who was beginning to look increasingly weary at the way he was being exposed.

The LIONSXII custodian then had to be at his best in the 65th minute when he extended his left boot to keep out a piledriver by Schrock, after Di Murga had torn down the right and floated a cross towards the far post.

Seven minutes later, Casmir wasted a good chance to pull one back when he lashed a shot over the bar, after exquisitely chesting down a long pass from Mustafic and dancing past a challenge, before Shahdan sent a left-footed strike just wide from the edge of the area in the 87th minute.

Nonetheless, Philippines' lead was never really in threat as they held on for an impressive victory to send out a real signal of intent to their Suzuki Cup rivals.

Singapore: Hyrulnizam Juma'at, Jufri Taha, Baihakki Khaizan, Hariss Harun (Safuwan Baharudin 58'), Daniel Bennett (Shaiful Esah 87'), Mustafic Fahrudin, Shahdan Sulaiman, Shi Jiayi (Nazrul Nazari 63'), Fazrul Nawaz (Agu Casmir 46'), Qiu Li (Safirul Sulaiman 68'), Shahril Ishak (Shahfiq Ghani 75').

Philippines: Neil Etheridge, Carli de Murga (Jason de Jong 90'), Robert Gier, Jason Sabio, Jeffrey Christiaens, James Younghusband (Patrick Reichelt 61'), Jerry Lucena, Stephan Schrock, Emelio Caligdong (Misagh Bahadoran 69'), Paul Mulders (Marwin Angeles 82'), Philip Younghusband (Denis Wolf 65').

Attendance: 2,956

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