Following two straight home losses at the hands of Bahrain and North Korea, the Philippine Azkals needed a win to raise confidence ahead of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup.
The Azkals just about nicked it, as they secured a 1-0 win against Kyrgyzstan at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. Substitute striker Misagh Bahadoran scored the game’s only goal in the 65th minute.
“Obviously happy. Not just that we won the game, I’m just happy with the commitment that the players did. We sit very organized. We did actually everything we were talking about before (the game),” commented Azkals coach Thomas Dooley after the game.
Simply put, the Philippines had a difficult first half and were perhaps lucky to not have conceded a goal at the hands of the visitors.
The Azkals had no shots on target ,in the opening 45 minutes with Kyrgyzstan very much in control. The home side’s best move came courtesy of the Younghusband brothers, but the Kyrgyz defense easily cleared it.
From then on, the Central Asian country controlled the contest. Vitalij Lux forced a good save from Azkals goalie Roland Muller, then Aziz Sydykov’s goal-bound header fortunately went over the bar.
Kyrgyzstan kept pounding the Philippines goal and almost found a way through when Azamat Baimatov’s header went into the back of the net, only for the goal to be disallowed due to a foul.
It finished goalless at the break, and the Philippines were definitely the happier side, having been second-best the whole first half.
Come the second half, though, a much-improved Azkals were on show. Dooley brought on Jim Muñoz and Bahadoran for James Younghusband and Mark Hartmann to refresh the Philippines’ attack.
Those substitutions paid dividends, as the Azkals noticeably had more potency in the final third of the pitch. At the other end, Kyrgyzstan was still dangerous as Viktor Maier’s attempt went narrowly wide.
Confidence was flowing through the Azkals at this stage of the game. Stephan Schrock unleashed a speculative long shot which was saved by Kyrgyzstan goalie Valerii Kashuba.
In the 65th minute mark, the game came alive. Iain Ramsay penetrated the central midfield, breaking the away team’s defense. Ramsay then passed the ball to Bahadoran, who timed his run excellently and scored a well-finished goal.
Kyrgyzstan tried to get an equalizer immediately, but the Azkals’ defense held firm. Akhlidin Israilov had the best chance for Kyrgyzstan when his free kick hit the crossbar.
In the end, the Philippines prevailed 1-0 against Kyrgyzstan. While the game wasn’t the prettiest, a win against a side in the top 100 of the FIFA World Rankings bodes well for the Philippines.
“If you think about the last two games, obviously this is a different game not because of the system that we played but also about the players. The players were fighting. You could see they weren’t just jogging and acting, they were acting instead of reacting and I’m very happy,” concluded Dooley.
The Philippines’ next game is against Singapore in the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup. That game shall be played at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan, on November 19, 2016, 8:00 PM.
Philippines XI: Muller (GK), Ramsay, Ott, Phil Younghusband (C), Sato, Aguinaldo, Ingreso, Schrock, Steuble, James Younghusband, Hartmann.
Kyrgyzstan XI: Kashuba (GK), Kozubaev, Maier, Baimatov, Sydykov, Shamshiev (C), Israilov, Sidorenko, Lux, Zhyrgalbek Uulu.