It was a night to forget for the Azkals in Guangzhou as they were utterly dominated by a much superior Chinese squad.
The first half started with a sense of foreboding as China threatened from the first minute as Wang Yongpo came close with a volley that just went wide.
Soon enough, the hosts were able to draw first blood in just the 3rd minute as defender Ren Hang headed in from a corner.
In the 14th and 18th minute respectively, the Azkals had two chances however the first was saved by the keeper while the second went wide.
James Younghusband suffered a knock early in the game and asked to be replaced which happened in just the 22nd minute with Kevin Ingreso coming into the game.
Moments later, China was able to double their lead, again from a corner, as Xiao Zhi headed the ball into the net in the 26th minute.
In the 32nd minute Daisuke Sato was substituted for a chest problem. Jeffrey Christiaens took his place, but the two early substitutions could affect the strategy and dynamics of the game for the Filipino side.
A ray of hope shone through the national team in the 34th minute though as Mike Ott and Ramsay combined to come up with an offensive move that put the defense on the wrong footing. Ramsay’s shot was not dealt with by the defense and Misagh Bahadoran, always at the right place at the right time, got to the loose ball to slot home a goal for the Philippines to make it 2-1 with China still on the lead.
The following few minutes could have been a window of opportunity for the Azkals to equalize as China seemed to be loosening a bit in their intensity but were not able to succeed.
In the 44th minute China then scored their third goal to pad their lead to a 2-goal cushion courtesy of Yu Hanchao. 3-1 to China as the game headed to halftime.
In the second half, further subsitutes were introduced as Camelo Tacusalme and Kenshiro Daniels replace Amani Aguinaldo and Junior Munoz, respectively.
Just a few moments after the restart, China notched another goal as Wang Yongpo tapped in from close range to make it 4-1.
That fourth goal would open the floodgates as for the next quarter of an hour another two goals would be scored against our squad as Hongbo Yin and Xizhe Zhang would add their names in the score sheet as they made it a rout already in the 68th minute to make it 6-1.
To add more salt to the wound, Hanwen Deng scored a brace in the 72nd and 89th minutes respectively. In between those, lone scorer Misagh Bahadoran was stretchered off as his knee wobbled badly from a collision that could be serious.
With Coach Thomas Dooley’s substitutions already used up, the Philippine Azkals were forced to play the rest of the game a man down as the Chinese marauded our half and fired at will to tellingly show their dominance with an 8-1 scoreline, as full-time arrived.
The lopsided result was a significant reality check for our Azkals squad but it should be taken as a learning experience and to strengthen the team come the more important match against Tajikistan on June 13 for the Asian Cup qualification match.
A main concern though are the fitness and knocks that were experienced in this friendly that could affect the squad depth and options come the fixture against Tajikistan, with the most glaring possible absentee in the form of Misagh Bahadoran due to his knee injury.
In hindsight, the recently concluded match should be an eye-opener in facing an in-form, and much higher-ranked team.
China was a top level team, guided by top-notch management, and was more superior in almost all aspects of the game as they punished every crack and exposure that the Azkals had, no matter how minute they were and it should be something that the team should learn from.
After this energy and morale-sapping loss, the thing that the squad should think, with the kind of result that just happened, in order to continue to hope, retain optimism and reach further heights is: “It was just a friendly”.
The Philippine National Football Team (aka The Azkals) will have their next match against Tajikistan on Jun 13, 2017 for the crucial AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifiers.
Follow this writer on Twitter @earlaverilla