Azkals top scrappy Tajikistan 4-3 in Asian Cup qualifiers


The Philippines men’s national football team survived Tajikistan’s relentless play after halftime to win 4-3 in their Asian Cup qualifying match in the capital city of Dushanbe on Tuesday night (Wednesday, Manila time).

With the Tajiks awoken after a quick succession of goals, the Azkals needed a momentum killer to stem the rising tide midway through the 2nd half.

Daisuke Sato provided such a relief, rifling a left-footer just outside the box and past multiple defenders in the 79th minute that took the air out of Central Republican Stadium.

Tajikistan wasn’t done giving the visitors fits, though. Manuchehr Dzhalilov’s single-handed foray with two Azkals in pursuit and keeper Patrick Deyto on the approach made it 4-3 in the 89th, but his goal turned out to be the last of the match.

It was the Filipinos’ 2nd win in these qualifiers, which gave them top spot in Group F after Yemen drew with Nepal earlier in the day. The Azkals (6 points) and Yemen (4) are 1-2 in their group, and meet at Panaad in Bacolod City on September 5.

The Asian Cup will be held in the United Arab Emirates on January 5 to February 1, 2019.

Against Tajikistan, Javier Patiño led the Azkals with a brace, his second goal putting the Philippines ahead 3-0 in the 48th minute.

After the Tajiks got on the board thanks to a penalty kick by Parvizjon Umarboev in the 57th, teammate Dilshod Vosiev made things interesting, converting a well-placed pass by Dzhalilov in the 61st to make it 3-2 that whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

The hosts held out hope of an equalizer, before Sato snuffed out their aspirations with his determined finish.

With an 8-1 shellacking in the hands of China still fresh in the Azkals’ minds, they looked ready to exorcise the demons of Guangzhou.

Phil Younghusband broke a scoreless deadlock with a free kick in the 28th that sailed past the outstretched arm of Abduaziz Mahkamov and to the back of the net. The Tajikistan keeper didn’t think it would be a long night, until Patiño doubled the lead in the 41st, taking advantage of a virtually open penalty area and putting Mahkamov at his mercy.

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