BACOLOD - Local hero Jovin Bedic etched his name into Ilonggo football history, scoring a crucial goal just minutes after entering the match that salvaged a 1-1 draw for the Philippine Azkals with Thailand in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup on Wednesday at the Panaad Stadium here.
Bedic, born in Iloilo but who went to college at West Negros College in Bacolod, came in for Stephen Palla in the 78th minute and immediately made an impact, gathering a pass from John Patrick Strauss and firing a shot from just outside the box in the 81st minute that hit the right post and bounced to Thai keeper Chatchai Bootprom, who was unable to handle it and watched helplessly as the ball bounced into the net near the left post.
The goal salvaged a point for the Azkals and kept them abreast with the War Elephants atop Group B with seven points each. It also eliminated Indonesia, whom the Azkals face in November 25 in Jakarta, from contention.
"A very tough match as I expected, a real competitive match," said Thailand coach Milovan Rajevac through an interpreter. "A very good set-up by the experienced coach Mr. Eriksson. I think the result is probably realistic if you look at what happened on the pitch."
Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said the result flattered Thailand more, adding he was pleased overall with his team's performance.
"Very good match. Both sides wanted to play football. I think Thailand is more happy with 1-1 than we are, but 1-1 is okay. The most important for me as a coach was to see that we can play very good football. And we did it for 90 minutes, which we didn't do in the last game."
The War Elephants tested Michael Falkesgaard right in the second minute when Adisak Kraisorn launched a looper from 35 yards out which forced the Azkals keeper to quickly backpedal and save.
In the 19th, John Patrick Strauss had the Azkals' first clear shot on goal, but his attempt from just outside the box was too high.
The Azkals started becoming more aggressive on offense in the latter half of the first half. Patrick Reicleht had an excellent chance in the 30th minute but his header in front of the goal off a well-placed cross from Stephan Schrock lacked power. Less than a minute later, Strauss tried again from outside the box, but again his attempt was too high.
In the 37th, a good build-up had Schrock finding Phil Younghusband in the box, with the Azkals skipper back-footing it to Daisuke Sato, whose shot was just inches wide to the left. Three minutes later, Manny Ott, back after missing the Timor-Leste match with a foot injury, tried one from 30 yards out with the ball going straight to Thai keeper Chatchai Bootprom.
The Azkals continued their assault early in the second half. Another Schrock cross found Phil Younghusband, whose left-footed shot from 10 yards was blocked by Bootprom.
But it was Thailand that finally broke the ice in the 58th minute after Supachai Chaided gathered a cross from Philip Roller and slotted it past Falkesgaard and into the left corner.
The War Elephants looked headed for another win when Sven Goran Eriksson decided to pull Bedic off the bench, leading to that crucial goal.
Rajevac rued conceding the late goal, which he called "a misfortune".
These things happen in football. The ball was deflected and changed direction. At that moment we were controlling the match. We were a little bit unlucky, but what can you do? That's football."
What a Azkals-Thailand draw means
ESPN5 football analyst Cedelf Tupas breaks down the Philippine Azkals' 1-1 draw with Thailand.
-Singapore blasted Timor-Leste, 6-1, in the other Group B match to move up to six points, just a point behind the group leaders. The Lions travel to Thailand to face the War Elephants on the 25th in a crucial match.
- Defender Alvaro Silva finally suited up after missing the first two matches due to injury. Eriksson was all praises for him. "Extremely important (player). Alvaro Silva is a fantastic defender, center half. I think he could play at any level, in Europe. I'm quite sure about that. He's a clever man, taking good positions, Very good header, and he's rather quick."
- The pitch was quite slippery following overnight rains spawned by tropical depression Samuel, with several players losing their footing.