Goalkeeper Eduard Sacapano’s performance glossed over the Philippines’ defensive frailties in a goalless draw against Singapore in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final on Saturday.
The partisan crowd at Manila’s Rizal Memorial Stadium watched anxiously as Sacapano pulled off a number of first-half saves to thwart three-time champions Singapore.
Playing their first home match in the tournament’s history, the Philippines put in a vastly improved performance in an eventful second half, even though they could not break the stalemate.
Saturday’s match began with both teams observing a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the December 6 typhoon that left nearly 1,000 people dead or missing in the southern Philippines.
“In general, it was a good game. They did not score, we did not score,” Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic said afterwards.
“I think we lost concentration in the first half. We should have scored a goal in that period,” the Serb said.
Singapore could also have scored in a rough second half, but Duric’s header off an Ishak cross sailed wide.
“The second half was much better, but still not to the potential that we can play,” Philippines coach Michael Weiss said.
In last night’s other semi-final first leg, at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Thailand played out a 1-1 draw.
The holders seized the initiative early in the second half through Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, but allowed visiting Thailand a share of the points after Teerasil Dangda netted in the 78th minute.
Singapore host Philippines in the second leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday, while Malaysia will head over to Thailand to play their return leg at Bangkok’s Supachalasai Stadium on Thursday.