I REMEMBER the exact moment Malaysia silenced a packed Panaad crowd in 2005. We were ahead, 2-1, for about 15 minutes when Malaysia equalized via penalty. But still, the crowd was in it, egging the team on. Then, No. 14 scored, he ran to the sideline near the grandstand and put a finger on his lips.
I think there was a smattering of boos at the guy and some returned his gesture with a different gesture. The team never fully recovered and lost to Malaysia, which went on to win the bronze.
It was a different Malaysia squad that faced the Philippines last night, or rather to be exact, it was a different Philippines squad. In 2005, though we got ahead 2-1 in the first half, it was obvious who was in control. But last Nov. 29, Malaysia seemed intimidated. There were instances when a chasing Amani Aguinaldo seemed to get the Malaysian strikers out of synch.
The closeup on the Malaysian players on TV showed they were the nervy bunch, not us and after two games of great second halves, the Philippines finally had two great halves.
Then there was the goal. I initially thought it was by Amani Aguinaldo but replays showed it was by Stephen Schrock. But then again, just like the roles they play in the team, both were instrumental in that goal. Schrock for that looping corner and Amani for rattling the keeper as he was rushing in.
With three games at hand, Malaysia’s tactic in the game was made obvious by that goal. They were hoping to catch us napping in the counter, just like what Myanmar did because after the goal, they began to press and thankfully, the defensive discipline of the team held on. There were some time-wasting on our part, which is understandable, but thankfully we didn’t get punished for it like we did Cambodia. I really hate that part of the game, no matter who’s doing it.
What made the win doubly sweeter was that at the same time in Biñan, the Malditas were setting history of their own with a 5-0 rout of Malaysia to make the semifinals for the first time. Sarina Bolden was impressive, scoring two late goals in the first half to complete a hat trick.
The Malditas got their share of unwanted hatred from trolls who wished the team would lose so I was happy that despite there being another game at Rizal, some 1,600 showed up there.
Rizal was equally loud, too, with fans coming in droves to watch the national team in their must-win match and I hope the crowd will still be there in the next matches.