If you’re a true blue Philippine Azkals (internationally known as the Philippine Football Team) fan, you will know what happened on the evening of December 5th, 2010 (okay, for those who are suffering from short term memory gap or are fans of basketball — it was the night we beat the powerhouse Vietnam team 2-0 in their home turf. Prior to the match, Vietnam was on top of the AFF Suzuki Cup and the Azkals were the underdogs).
Tonight, my son and I watched the Philippine Azkals game versus DPR Korea (North Korea, that is not Da People’s Republic of Korea) live at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila as part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and 2019 AFC Asian Cup Second Elimination Round. For me, the match tonight was the team’s best game yet since December 5, 2010. Prior to tonight’s match, I personally thought that the Philippine Azkals beating DPR Korea (whether on home turf or away) is next to impossible.
Kick-off is at 2000H, but my son and I opted to leave home early to avoid the rush hour traffic jam in Manila. We were at the entrance of the Rizal Memorial Stadium (RMS) as early as 1730H — still plenty of time before the match, so we hangout at McDonald’s for a couple of minutes. The RMS guards finally allowed spectators to go inside the stadium minutes after 1800H. It is worth mentioning that this is an international (FIFA-sanctioned) football match, there was a notable high visibility of uniformed PNP personnel around the RMS (there was even walk-through metal detectors and x-ray machines installed at the entrance of the arena, and people were asked to show ID cards aside from the game tickets).
The last time I watched an Azkals game at the RMS (I think it was versus Mongolia a couple of years ago), the pitch was still using carabao grass — now it has an artificial turf. Said to myself, “taxes working for you…” kudos to the Philippine Sports Commission!
The beauty of being early at the game venue: you will be able to catch both teams warm up.
Minutes before kick-off…
The opening goal came in rather late: a shot from Javier Patiño in the 43rd minute was deflected by the goalkeeper but a follow-up heading by Misagh Bahadoran went straight to the net inside the goal! Philippines = 1; DPR Korea = NIL.
But just some four (04) minutes later, DPR Korea got a break in the mad scramble near the goal: game tied at 1 a piece at half-time.
A few minutes after the second half started, DPR Korea had a lucky break: they managed a goal on the 47th minute. Azkals down, 1-2 in favor of DPR Korea.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, on the 84th minute Manny Ott was the recipient of a team effort pass, which originated with slide pass from James Younghusband then to Javi Patiño then to Miguel Tanton, who did the backheel pass to Ott and scored! The Azkals tied the match, 2-2! Yes, it was not a dream! The entire stadium is rumbling in jubilation as the home crowd cheers the goal. Remember, we tied this guys with a scoreless draw last year in their home turf.
When everybody thought it would be over, with just a minute left in regulation, Javi Patiño skillfully trapped, dribbled and chipped the ball to Iain Ramsay, who was at the right spot at the right time: in front of the goal. Ramsay scores! My son was already covering his ears as the crowd went wild to celebrate the 3rd goal of the match. History happening right in front of our very eyes that night. The Philippine Azkals leads the match 3-2 with just a minute remaining in regulation period. Three (03) minutes added. Then came the final whistle. More cheers from the crowd.
What a match! Feels like watching a FIFA World Cup match in our home soil (owing to the fact that DPR Korea played in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with some of their players then in the roster for tonight’s game — including the goalkeeper). The level by which the Azkals played tonight is truly world class football.
As most sportscasters will say, the game tonight of the Azkals versus DPR Korea is truly one for the history books. With this win, though we are already out of contention for the next FIFA World Cup, we will be able to see more action from the Philippine Azkals during the 3rd Round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Other photos I took that night are here. Feel free to share with proper credits.
Highlights video of the match clipped from ABS-CBN Sports & Action is here: