Key Battles: Philippines vs Malaysia

Goal takes a look at the enticing match-ups that is likely to take place on Sunday between The Azkals and Harimau Malaya.

GOALBY    DARREN GOON     Follow on Twitter


In the absence of top scorer Phil Younghusband, international rookie Ruben Doctora will be expected to lead the line against a Malaysian defence set to be marshalled by national team captain Aidil Zafuan. It would be wise for Aidil not to take Doctora lightly, as the Stallion FC striker scored on his international debut against Nepal two weeks ago, and has 7 goals in 15 league appearances this season.

Often a rock in the Malaysian defence, Aidil is a dependable leader, and he will need to be at his imposing best to stop the nippy Azkals striker from adding to his international tally.


Another member of Thomas Dooley’s new-look side, Daisuke Sato is just 19 years old, but he’s already impressed for his club side Global FC with several goals and assists this season. Replacing injured club mate Jeffrey Christiaens in the squad, the Japanese-Filipino left-winger is also handy at set-pieces, collecting an assist from a free-kick in the 3-0 over Nepal.

Mahali is having an average (by his lofty standards) season for Johor Darul Ta’zim, but he’s still one of Malaysia’s main attacking threats down the right flank, where he often plays in such an advanced position that he’s more of a wing-back than a full-back. However, some of his attacking forays leave space behind him, and Mahali will have to be alert to ensure that Sato doesn’t slip past him with his lightning pace.


With vice-captain Rob Gier out of the squad, veteran Anton del Rosario will be tasked with marking Malaysian marksman Safee Sali. Although he has been mainly limited to substitute appearances for Johor Darul Ta’zim, resulting in just two goals for him this season, Safee can be relied upon to trouble del Rosario with his physical presence and explosive bursts of pace.

Alternatively, Safee could also be used as a target-man to hold up the ball for other Malaysian attackers like Amri Yahyah and Fakri Saarani, who both scored in Harimau Malaya’s last friendly, a 2-1 win over Yemen in March.