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Eriksson off to winning start as Philippines boss

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By Agence France-Presse

Sven-Goran Eriksson began his Philippines reign with a win as his Azkals beat Singapore 1-0 in a Suzuki Cup group match at home Tuesday.

Winger Patrick Reichelt scored the only goal in the 78th minute.

He beat three defenders after captain Phil Younghusband, playing in his 100th cap, instinctively flicked on a header from his centre-forward brother James Younghusband, a second-half substitute.

Until then the Singaporeans played a compact, counter-attacking game that frustrated the hosts, who had the majority of the ball but failed to make a single shot on target in the first half on their first game of the tournament.

“The feeling is amazing, opening game, to be a winner,” Eriksson, the ex-England manager, said after the Group B match at the Panaad stadium in the central city of Bacolod.

“We had problems in the beginning and it’s just unbelievable, at home in Panaad to win it and to be at 1-0, it’s a crazy feeling. Good start to the Suzuki Cup,” he added.

“I think James (Younghusband) in the centre helped us a lot with his physical presence, and then we changed and just made everything a little bit quicker and it worked out.”

The much-travelled Swede had been hired last month tasked with stabilising the Philippines after the confused reign of Terry Butcher, who quit as head coach before taking charge of a single game.

Butcher, the ex-England captain, was named head coach in June but lasted less than 50 days, saying he was not “able to make this work”.

Eriksson became in 2001 the first foreigner to head England’s football team, taking them to two World Cup quarter-finals.

He has since also coached Mexico and the Ivory Coast as well as league clubs in Sweden, Portugal, Italy and China.

The Swede has set a short-term goal of getting the Philippines, ranked 116th by FIFA, to the Suzuki Cup final.

The Azkals have never won the Suzuki Cup, Southeast Asia’s biennial tournament, but were semi-finalists for three straight tournaments between 2010 and 2014.

Eriksson will also helm the Philippines in the Asian Cup in January.

“We knew it was gonna be difficult for us,” Singapore keeper Hassan Sunny said after Tuesday’s match.

“The playing conditions were not good for us, but then having said that, I think the Philippines have a strong team and they’re deserving winners.”