Kuala Lumpur: Timor Leste coach Norio Tsukitate hailed his squad’s second half performance against the Philippines as they nearly completed an improbable comeback from three goals down in their AFF Suzuki Cup Group B clash at KLFA Football Stadium last Saturday night. 

The Philippines secured a 3-2 victory, but the Azkals were made to sweat by Tsukitate’s charges as second half goals from captain Nataniel Reis and Joao Pedro paved the way for an exciting finish. 

Timor ultimately fell short and absorbed its third straight loss of the tournament, after heavy defeats to Thailand (0-7) and Indonesia (1-3). 

But Tsukitate said his team can build on their performance against the Azkals as they finish their campaign on Wednesday away against Singapore. 

"I love my players and they are young and pure and always do their best on the field,” said the Japanese coach. “They can be proud of the way they played in the second half against the Philippines.” 

The Azkals took a three-goal lead thanks to Phil Younghusband, Martin Steuble and Carlie De Murga, but the Timorese side always looked dangerous on the break for most of the match. Tsukitate’s team was finally rewarded in the second half when Reis converted a penalty and Pedro rounded out Philippines custodian Michael Falkesgaard. 

“In the first half maybe, we were not experienced enough and Philippines team has a good experience,” said Tsukitate. “Next time our players can do more and we can enjoy the next match against Singapore."