McMenemy lauds valiant Philippines performance

Saturday, December 18, 2010
Despite watching his side suffer their first defeat in this year's AFF Suzuki Cup with a 1-0 loss to Indonesia on Thursday Philippines coach Simon McMenemy still felt that his players were fully deserving of praise for their brave performance in front of an intimidating crowd at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.

For McMenemy, the experience of coaching in front of a large and passionate crowd of 70,000 in Jakarta was an experience that he is unlikely to soon forget.

"For us I am very, very pleased with performance tonight," the Englishman said. "We've come such a long way in this tournament and we've overcome so many odds to be here.

"And to come to a stadium like this with such unbelievable fans – and I say this coming from England where we have the Premier League every weekend – and to watch them going mental for 90 minutes is just incredible. It's an experience that I won't forget for a while and I can't wait to do it again in a couple of days' time."

The Philippines managed to carry out McMenemy's game plan successfully but were ultimately let down by a momentary defensive lapse when goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and defender Ray Jonsson got in each other's way and allowed Cristian Gonzales to head in the only goal.

"As far as the game went, we stuck to our game plan. I know it's not the prettiest and I would love to play more attacking football, but coaching is all about playing to your strengths and I thought that we did very well tonight because Indonesia didn't really break us down too many times," McMenemy said.

"Unfortunately it was a defensive mistake that led to their goal and that mistake came about simply because our goalkeeper and defender couldn't hear each other as a result of the sheer noise in the stadium. So I think that the 12th man – the 80,000 fans – really helped Indonesia out tonight.

"They were the better team and they passed the ball around well tonight but they weren't able to break us down and that gives us hope for the second half of the tie. We'll be back on Sunday and we'll see what happens.

McMenemy also felt that Etheridge should not be judged too much on his lone mistake in the game.

"What we fail to remember is Neil is still only 20. He's in tears in the dressing room because he feels that he let the team down – but we tend to forget the number of times that he has saved the team.

"He's been incredible for us. He has such a great presence and it is very, very difficult to put the ball past him. He's very disappointed that his mistake led to a goal but he will learn from this and he'll be back for the next game."

And the Philippines coach also felt that the performance was something that all Filipino fans could be proud of.

"Anybody who knows football will understand how difficult it was for us tonight and how good a performance it was that we produced," he explained.

If you go chasing a game when you're 1-0 down in a two-leg tie and you concede two or three, then you've lost the tie. So it was very important that we stayed disciplined tonight although we had the setback of the goal. We needed to stay disciplined and not chase the game because it gives us a chance for the second leg.

"Obviously it's very disappointing not to get a tie in the Philippines because the crowd would have been on our side and we deserved a game there. But very rarely do you get the chance to play in front of such a passionate crowd. I hope that translates to the team because the experience that they will take from tonight – regardless of the result – is priceless.

"The atmosphere was phenomenal and the fans were absolutely incredible tonight – all credit to them."


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