Kuala Lumpur City’s goalkeeper Mendoza, the breakout star of the Philippines’ national team in the Asean Football Federation’s Suzuki Cup in December last year, once again sat out the action in the Tri Nations Series as a depleted Azkals crashed to their second loss in the competition, losing 2-0 to Singapore, on Tuesday at the city state’s National Stadium.
129th ranked Philippines only had 15 players to call upon for this match from their 25 man squad, as a Covid-19 virus breakout ravaged their squad. Not wanting to disappoint the 9,000 fans, they surely deserve a sporting medal for taking field despite the challenges in the 25th meeting between the two sides since 1962.
Singapore, who had registered 15 wins against 5 losses in the head to head record against the Philippines, only had to wait 10 minutes before going ahead via a header from Selangor’s skipper Safuwan Baharudin off a corner. Five minutes to the breather, the Philippines were reduced to 10 men after defender Diego Bardanca was sent off, picking up his second caution of the game, following a tackle on the Lions captain Hariss Harun. Shawal Anuar eased any fears the Singaporeans had, by confirming victory with his strike in the final minute of play
Philippines’ defeat to the host who are 32 places lower in the FIFA ranking table, in a similar scoreline as they suffered to Malaysia earlier (25 places lower in FIFA’s rank) allowed the Lions to top the competition organised by their own federation, the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS). Singapore edged Malaysia, 2-1 in their opener last Sunday at the same venue.
Englishman head coach Scott Cooper will have some thinking to do about the Azkals performance in this tournament, finishing bottom, failing to score and conceding 4 goals in spite of assembling a squad that had 19 overseas based players and ranked much higher than their opponents.
The Tri-Nations Series was organised as part of preparations for the third round of the 2023 Asia Cup qualifying games coming up in June 2022. Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines are out of the race for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but they are still competing for a place in next year’s continental showpiece in China.