The under-23 Azkals blank Timor Leste as the Philippines also stuns Thailand in men’s beach handball in the SEA Games
MANILA, Philippines – A fearless attacking display boosted the Philippines to a 4-0 triumph over Timor Leste at the start of men’s football at the 31st Southeast Asian Games at the Viet Tri Stadium in Phu Tho, Vietnam on Friday, May 6.
Goals from Christian Rontini, Dennis Chung, Jovin Bedic, and Oskari Kekkonen propelled coach Norman Fegidero’s side to a first victory in a tough Group A that also includes defending champion and host Vietnam, 2019 runner-up Indonesia, and Myanmar.
Over at Tuan Chau Island in Quang Nihn Province, the Philippine beach handball team also came through with an inspiring 2-0 win against Thailand.
The national team scored identical scores of 18-16 in the first and second periods against the 2019 SEA Games silver medalist.
“This is a good first win for the boys. This is for our country to start the campaign in this SEA Games on a winning note,” said national handball team coach Jana Franquelli.
“This is a crucial win because we know that Thailand is a strong team. But our players, all of them delivered on offense and on defense. Our defense was excellent,” added Franquelli.
Rontini opened the scoring with a pinpoint header off Azkals captain Stephan Schrock’s cross in the 11th minute, but it wasn’t until the second half when the under-23 squad finally put the Timorese to the sword.
“It’s always going to be difficult going into the tournament because we don’t know exactly where we are as a team, but everyone showed a lot of commitment and discipline,” Schrock said. “The boys did very well.”
The Filipinos have a one-day break before taking on the Vietnamese on Sunday in a match that could determine their chances of advancing to the semifinals.
“We sleep, eat and we go again,” said Schrock, expressing confidence of a strong showing against the hosts.
The Philippines almost doubled the lead in the 35th minute when Sandro Reyes released Bedic down the middle only for the Kaya FC Iloilo striker to spray his shot wide.
Except for an early chance, Timor Leste hardly had a sight on goal as the Philippines dominated proceedings at midfield.
Chung, who tested the Timorese goalkeeper twice in the first half, finally got on the scoresheet in the 56th minute thanks to another fine ball from Schrock.
Bedic made it 3-0 in the 78th minute, showing strength and skill in holding off defenders before finding the back of the net. Kekkonen netted a fourth with a powerful strike in the middle after being teed up by Oli Bias nine minutes from time.
Philippine handball standout Rey Joshua Tabuzo made most of the damage with his attacks to the goal in the first 10-minute period, while Mark Vincent Dubouzet and Van Jacob Baccay took turns in scoring for the Nationals in the second period.
On the defensive end, the national team got solid performances from the defensive line composed of John Michael Pasco, Josef Maximillan Valdez and Manuel Lasangue Jr,. and goalkeeper Dhane Miguel Varela.
The national team hopes to surpass its bronze-medal finish when the 2019 meet was held here.
The Filipinos will next face Vietnam – the defending SEA Games gold medalist – Saturday at 5 pm, and Singapore on Sunday at 4 pm. The four nations will play another round from May 9 to 11.
The medalists will be determined after the double round as the top three teams will earn medals. – with a report from the PSC-POC media pool/Rappler.com