Phil Younghusband’s 50th goal proved to be golden as the Azkals opened a new chapter in Pinoy football.
The captain fired a crucial penalty at the AFC qualifying game’s last minute in regulation to frustrate Tajikistan, 2-1, booking the Philippines National Football Team’s first ever ticket to the Asian Cup.
It was a slow start for the Azkals as the visitors frequently punctured the Philippine defense in the first minutes of the game. Iain Ramsay’s attempt at the 18th minute, however, changed the pace.
Tajikistan tried to lead via penalty at the 44th minute but Nel Etheridge denied them that cushion. They would score on the spot however at the 64th minute with Akhtam Nazarov, after a clash involving Kevin Ingreso in the box.
“We remained positive. We have to keep on pushing forward,” said Ingreso.
The midfielder made up with an equalizer at the 73rd minute, heading in a Ramsay cross from the left side of the box.
“I actually couldn’t believe it. I was crying,” said Ingreso. The tears came. I was just really trying my best.”
The Philippines winning moment came at the 90th minute, with Patrick Reichelt falling inside the box to put Phil within striking distance of a trip to the 2019 Asian Cup in UAE.
After putting the Azkals on top, emotion went high with an errant strike to the back of Carli de Murga’s head, sending both sides down a man each with red cards on Iskandar Dzhalilov and Dennis Villanueva.
The Asian Cup is Asia’s biggest stage for football in the continent. Australia is the defending champion after South Korea at home during the competition’s 2015 edition.