The Philippine men’s football team did not park the bus this time and played more decent sets, but the mighty Dragons from China were just too strong for them as the group leaders advanced to the Final 16 of the AFC Asian Cup, 3-0, Friday in Abu Dhabi.
The result was still a huge improvement for the Azkals unlike the 8-1 thrashing by China in 2017 and almost similar scores from decades back.
Veteran winger Wu Lei played the best game of his national career, unleashing a high curving volley from the upper right corner of the box that seamlessly pierced the Azkals goal in the 40th minute.
Kevin Ingreso could have replicated Wu’s quality goal to end the half, volleying a free kick from 25 yards only to be tapped by Yan Junling, frustrating the Filipinos’ quest for its maided Asian Cup goal.
While the Azkals had more possessions in the second half, these hardly translated to shots on goal, as the duo of striker Javi Patino and winger Stephan Schrock got stymied by the Chinese defense, with the latter frequently faltering on his passes to the former.
Wu displayed his brilliance again, striking the ball with a high kick at the 66th minute off a free kick from the side of the box.
Finally, senior strike Yu Dabao finished the Azkals with an easy header off a corner kick, rebounding the ball that was deflected by defender Luke Woodland.
With the loss, the Azkals need to win by a wide margin against Kyrgyzstan White Falcons, who are playing South Korea as of press time, on Wednesday to grad the four round-of-sixteen slots offered for the best group third placers. Said game is a motivation for the Azkals to win big as they have never dropped a match against the Central Asian nation, with scores of 2-1 and 1-0 in two friendlies in 2016.
(Photo: Azkals skipper Stephan Shrock tries to fend off Chinese defense. Photo from the-afc.com.)