MANILA (Reuters) - Goalkeeper Eduard Sacapano’s performance glossed over 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, Philippines dished out a vastly improved performance in an eventful second half even though they could not break the stalemate.
Singapore host Philippines in the second leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.
Saturday’s match began with both teams observing one minute silence in memory of the victims of the December 6 typhoon that left nearly 1,000 people dead or missing in southern Philippines.
Singapore were making dangerous inroads as soon as play started and the visitors nearly scored before the half hour mark when Sharik Ishak’s header from a Aleksander Duric cross narrowly missed.
Sacapano was soon intercepting a dangerous Ishak cross and the home team’s defence threatened to succumb under constant pressure.
Philippines did get a chance to grab the lead but Phil Younghusband’s weak shot was easily dealt with by Singapore goalkeeper Mohamad Izwan Mahbud.
Marwin Angeles and Chieffy Caligdong came off the bench to add teeth to the Filipino attack in the second half but Singapore’s compact defence ensured the visitors were unscathed.
“In general, it was a good game. They did not score, we did not score,” Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic said.
“I think we lost concentration in the first half. We should have scored a goal in that period,” said the Serb.
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. (Writing by Amlan Chakraborty; editing by Alison Wildey)