Taiwan scored a controversial last-minute penalty to grab a 2-2 draw against Macau in the opening match of the Peace Cup soccer tournament at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, Philippines, yesterday.
The referee pointed to the spot for hand-ball in the Macau penalty area in the 90th minute, a controversial decision because the ball did not appear to strike a Macau player on the hand, and Yang Chao-hsun stepped up to bury the spot-kick and rescue a point for Taiwan in a game where they hit the post at least half a dozen times.
Taiwan — 176th in the FIFA world rankings and playing without their talismanic midfielder and youngest ever captain, Chen Po-liang, who plays professionally for Shenzhen Ruby in the Chinese second division — lined up in an attacking 4-2-4 formation and they controlled the game in the first 20 minutes against Macau, 200th in FIFA’s world rankings.
However, they failed to make the most of their grip on possession and their lower-ranked opponents grew in confidence as the match went on.
Macau, playing a more conservative 4-3-3 formation, grabbed the initiative a minute before halftime, when Ricardo Joao de Almeida Torrao beat Taiwan goalkeeper Pan Wen-chieh from a free-kick.
Taiwan were back on level terms three minutes after the break, though, when midfielder Lo Chi-en finally grabbed the equalizer after his teammates had twice hit the woodwork.
Macau went back in front in the 57th minute, when veteran striker Chan Kin Seng grabbed their second and that was the way it stayed until the controversy in the final minute.
In the evening match, the hosts, ranked 150th in the world, edged Guam 1-0, ranked 185th, with a 79th-minute goal from Patrick Gerry Anthony Reichelt to take an early lead in the six-match tournament.
In the next round of matches tomorrow, Taiwan are likely to face a tougher challenge when they take on Guam in the 4pm kickoff in Manila, while the Philippines face Macau at 7:30pm.
On Saturday, Guam take on Macau in the 4pm kickoff, before the tournament finale, the clash between the hosts, nicknamed the Azkals, and Taiwan at 7:30pm.