The Philippines has never won a football match with Indonesia since the two countries started playing competitively. While the Azkals have enjoyed a resurgence in the sport since their magical run to the 2011 AFF Suzuki Cup semifinal, the Indonesians had always been in their way - the lack of a suitable pitch forced the Filipinos to play their home leg at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, and the Merah Putih marched on to the final against Malaysia on the strength of a 2-0 aggregate score.
Patrich Wanggai, from Indonesia's Putrajaya province, practices for Wednesday's international friendly match against the Philippines. Indonesia blanked the visitors, 2-0.
Even as the Philippines has reached its highest ever FIFA ranking (141), the Indonesian squad (ranked 169th) remained the prohibitive favorites in Wednesday's friendly match, especially since it was played in front of a raucous crowd in Manahan Stadium, Surakarta. The Indonesians were coming off a 0-2 loss to Liverpool on July 21.
The Azkals missed the services of first-choice keeper Neil Etheridge, who plays for Fulham in the English Premier League, and fast-rising striker Javier Patino, who was tied up with Thai side Buriram United. Still, the Philippines retained the services of the prolific Younghusband brothers, who play for local side Loyola Meralco Sparks FC. Indonesia also had an ace up its own sleeve - Greg Nwokolo.
The Merah Putih started out aggressive, getting a pair of early chances. Their compact defense also stymied the Filipinos, not letting them advance the ball to the Indonesian side of the pitch. The Indonesian side's patience was rewarded when Nwokolo converted on a tight pass from that went past Filipino keeper Ed Sacapano in the 31st minute.
Indonesian midfielder Muhammad Roby followed up on the first goal in the 66th minute, flicking in a header off a corner kick, completely confounding the Philippine defense and igniting a wave of cheering across the packed stadium. The Philippines tried to pull one back but were not able to find the back of the net, and by the time the final whistle sounded, the Indonesians' spotless record against the visitors was still clean.
The Indonesians will face English Premier League side Chelsea next, while the Philippines will prepare for its stint in the AFC Challenge Cup in 2014.
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