In front of a rabid home crowd in Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City, the Philippine Men’s national football team powered its way past an underconditioned Mongolia squad, 2-0, in the first leg of their 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers knockout series for the right to be seeded in Group A of the upcoming qualifying tournament.
Though unheralded before today’s match, the visiting squad from Ulanbataar made the hometown squad’s life a living hell through their very tight defense and in disrupting the newly installed offensive minded flow of the squad.
A second and controversial yellow card was assessed on Mongolia’s Pagamsuren Altantulga around the 24th minute for delaying the game, which reduced the squad known as “The Blue Wolves” down to 10 men for the rest of the match.
Soon after, the match blew wide open when Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong scored through the legs of Mongolian goalkeeper Ganbayar Tseveensuren in the 42nd minute which sent the hometown crowd to a frenzy.
In the second half, conditioning plagued the Mongolians as their players fell down one by one on the pitch. Their head coach Sandagdorj Erdenebat said through an interpreter that they had training in Guangzhou, China for a week to prepare for the match, but the sweltering heat that rose to as high as around 30 degrees severely affected his boys.
With the game all but decided in extra time of the 2nd half, Phil Younghusband slotted in a great shot off the left post to extend a 2-nil lead to decide the final scoreline.
A more offensive-minded system, implemented by newly installed German head coach Hans Michael Weiss, paid its dividends quickly specially in the evident 32 shots on goal by the white shirts.
“The referee was not 100 percent perfect,” complained Coach Sandagdorj through an interpreter, “It was all in the game.”
“The second game is in our country. The series has not ended yet. We are hoping to win (on home soil).” he soon said afterwards. Philippine coach Weiss agreed on the vistors’ stance, saying that the two yellow cards were issued too hastily and that the official had poor judgment in making the quick call.
In preparation for the next match, Coach Weiss bared that the squad will undergo acclimitization training for six days in Baguio City before their trip to Ulanbataar, then will fly off to the Mongolian captial a week ahead before their scheduled return match.
The second leg will be played at the frigid landscape of Ulanbataar, Mongolia on March 15.
PHILIPPINES 2 – 0 MONGOLIA
PHL – Caligdong 42″, P. Younghusband 90+2″