Not just a win, but a statement to potential opposition — the Azkals are on the rise, one step at a time.
P. Younghusband (43′)
P. Younghusband (57′ PEN)
| Del Rosario (34′)
| Dinesh (22′)
In their first home match back in the country, the Philippine men’s national football squad scored big and in dominant fashion on home turf at the historic Rizal Memorial Track and Football Stadium in Manila on Sunday in order to secure a spot in the next round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
With a 4-0 demolition of a young Sri Lanka XI in tow, the squad guided by German mentor Hans Michael Weiss has made history by advancing to the next level of the competition for the first time ever in team history.
During the previous World Cup qualifiers in which the country has been invited to compete, the squad either did not go through the first round or declined to compete for various reasons.
On the offensive early on in a sudden hard downpour, the very offensive-minded Tri-Stars attempted as many shots on goal in the first 19 minutes of the match, until Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong was rewarded with a 20th minute with a strike within the penalty box that ricocheted off the left goal post and into the net to give the blue shirts the early 1-nil lead.
Managing to neutralize the the physical play shown by the Brave Reds in the first leg and returning to their fantastic passing play on a well-kempt pitch at home, the home side kept on pushing the Sri Lankans to the brink and keeping them away from clear shots on goal.
Then with halftime looming in, a controversial second goal was slotted in by Phil Younghusband in the 43rd minute and was nearly waived off due to a possible offside infraction. Eventually, both referee Kim Sang Woo and the nearest assistant referee on the Sri Lanka side of the pitch and upheld the goal.
By the break, the Philippines had a comfortable 2-0 lead entering the dugouts.
Five minutes into the second half, Fil-Spaniard Angel Guirado used his quickness and tricky footwork to drive past three defenders and goalkeeper Manjula Fernando for the easy score to further make a comeback impossible for the Sri Lankans.
Phil Younghusband made it 4-0 in the 57th minute from the penalty spot after getting a tough challenge from substitute midfielder Lahiru Tharaka that merited a yellow card.
Ian Araneta came in for Phil Younghusband, who re-injured his right hamstring in their first leg match in Colombo and had to brought to the hospital after the match due to severe cramps, in the 66th minute and tried to pad onto the commanding lead with three attempts that just went wide right.
Adding to the misery of the visitors was the sending off of team captain Rohana Ruwan Dinesh in the last minute of regulation after incurring his second yellow card of the match to reduce the South Asian squad to ten men.
Finally, Angel Guirado had a supposed point-blank shot on goal within the penalty box deep into injury time, only to see the limp shot cleared away by a Sri Lankan defender for the final clear shot on goal by the Azkals.
Though the nationals have all the reason to celebrate, the possibility of seeing both captain Aly Borromeo and Fil-German midfielder Stephan Schrock suspended for the first leg of their second round encounter against 10-time Gulf Cup of Nations titleholders Kuwait after accumulating their second yellow card of the qualifiers could spell doom but head coach Weiss sees this as an opportunity of developing more emerging talent on the wings.
Also, the squad is looking forward to a string of friendly matches in Bahrain as a build-up to their upcoming campaign in the second round.
The second round matchup between Kuwait and the Philippines will begin on July 23 under hostile conditions, before the home-and-away series returns back home in a night match on July 28 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.