The CNMI Men's National Team avoided a shutout loss to Macau in the EAFF Asian Cup 2013 Preliminary Competition Round 1 after drawing a goal from Kirk Schuler last Friday at the Leo Palace Resort in Yona, Guam.
Schuler put the Commonwealth in the scoreboard in the 51st minute after the CNMI bets went scoreless in the first half. Schuler's goal started on a free kick play for Joe Miller after Macau was called for a foul. Miller, who scored the CNMI's lone goal in their loss to Guam last Wednesday, hit a high ball toward the goal and Schuler completed the play as he kicked the leather in.
Schuler's goal sliced Macau's lead to one, 1-2, however the latter went on to nail three more goals for a 5-1 victory.
The CNMI did a great job defending Macau's attackers in the first 20-plus minutes of the match before Ho Man Hou found Chan Kin Seng open in the 27th minute for a shot to the right post and into the goal. Macau, which scouted the CNMI in the latter's 1-3 loss to Guam last Wednesday, then got another one 13 minutes later, as this time Ho found himself near the goal.
Down at 0-2, the CNMI equaled Macau's aggressiveness on offense early in the second half, leading to a Schuler goal. However, that was the only time the Commonwealth bets scored, while Macau drained three more with one coming from a penalty kick.
With the victory, Macau just need to beat host Guam to win Round 1 and advance to the next phase of the qualifier and face Chinese-Taipei and North Korea in Hong Kong in December.
Guam and Hong Kong were playing in the qualifying decider last night. A Guam victory will move the host to the second round anew after making the cut in 2009. Guam drew Macau in the 2009 qualifier to barge into the second round. A draw in last Sunday's crucial match this time will put Macau in the second round due to the goal differential.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong ruled the women's division after beating Guam last Saturday, 4-3. Hong Kong also won over the CNMI last Thursday, 0-11. Guam finished second with one win (against the CNMI, 6-0) and one loss.
Hong Kong barged into the second round competition that will be played in China also later this year. Other women's qualifiers in the second round have yet to be determined.