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Azkals advance to Suzuki Cup semifinals following draw with Indonesia

JAKARTA - The Philippine Azkals qualified for the 2018 AFF Suzuki cup semifinals following a goalless draw against host Indonesia at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.

The Azkals thus finished with eight points in Group B, two behind defending champion Thailand, after registering two wins and two draws.

The match was rough with 22 fouls called, but it lacked drama and action as the hosts, already eliminated, slightly controlled possession 55% to 45% but never really threatened.

"A draw. That's okay as long as we qualify for the semifinal, which we did," said Azkals coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. "I think everybody is happy. If you talk about the quality of the game, we could have played better maybe. I thought we'd score goals in the occasions we created. Hopefully that will come in the semifinal."

There were some real chances created by the Azkals, although they weren't as many as in the Thailand game four days earlier.

Stephan Schrock had a golden opportunity in the fourth minute after Indonesian keeper Andritani Ardhiyasa mishandled a cross in the box, but the midfielder's grounder was just inches to the right.

But other than Phil Younghusband having to leave the match early in the first half due to a cut in in his head following a collision, it was an uneventful first half. Neither keeper was troubled too much in the first half as no shots on goal were produced by either side.

It was not much different in the second half. Neither side could dominate possession and create good chances, although the Azkals did come close.

In the 59th minute, Manny Ott came close to breaking the deadlock but his attempt from inside the box at close range was blocked by Adritany.

But that was the best chance the Azkals would get all night. Without the enterprising Younghusband, their offense wasn't as fluid. In the 87th, Ott would get another chance, but his set piece from the left flank was parried out again.

Eriksson admitted Younghusband's absence had an effect on their game plan, although he expressed hope that the striker would be ready for the first semifinal match.."Of course, Phil is our captain and an important player. I know he got stitches. I'm not a doctor, but I don't think it will be a problem."

Still, it was enough to see them through to the knockout stages, their fourth appearance over the past five editions, as Thailand's masterful 3-0 win over Singapore officially booted out the Lions. Eriksson said overall he was pleased with the team's performance in the group stage. "I like our team. There are a lot of good football players and they're playing with a big heart. But four games, two wins and two draws and we are in the semifinal."

The Azkals will now face Group A topnotcher Vietnam in a two-game home-and-away semifinal series, with the first match to be played in Bacolod on December 2. The second leg will be held on December 6 in Vietnam.

NOTES:

-The other semifinal will pit Thailand versus Malaysia.

-Jovin Bedic, the hero in the Thailand match, was rewarded with a start.

-The Azkals only dressed 20 players as Stephan Palla has flown to Thailand to be with his new club team Buriram.

-Phil Younghusband was reportedly brought to a local hospital to get his cut worked on.

-The announced crowd at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium was a little over 15,000, a far cry from the over 80,000 that packed the stadium for the two semifinal matches between the two sides in the 2010 tournament.