Philippine Azkals bow to Uzbekistan White Wolves

    MANILA, Philippines – The Azkals who gained momentum after beating Yemen and Bahrain in their group’s elimination stage and beat Maldives in a friendly match couple of days ago fell short in the hands of the taller and higher-ranked Uzbekistanis 5-1 on Monday, September 8, 2015 at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

    Philippine Azkals Team
    Azkals suffer 5-1 beatdown to Uzbekistan for first loss in FIFA World Cup qualifiers

    It was raining cats and dogs in the entire Metro Manila, stretching it to Bulacan on Monday evening. But it did not stop the 7,500 Azkals diehard fans to march onto the Philippine Arena to show their full support to Coach Thomas Dooley and the rest of Pinoy Booters.

    Raked at 125th spot and 49 places lower than Uzbekistan, the Azkals displayed their unfazed and unthreatened auras when they faced the Uzbekistanis for the very first time during the walkout.

    Bannering the Philippine flag colorway jersey, the Azkals had the first possession at the kick-off.

    In less than a minute, Uzbekistan Team Captain Odil Ahmedov scored the first goal of the match who struck from the middle that went straight between Neil Etheridge’s legs for a 1-Nil lead.

    Team Pilipinas lead by Phil Younghusband, tried to counter right after the stunning Uzbekistan goal but was outran by the antagonists.

    Phil Younghusband
    Phil Younghusband having a hard time scoring against Uzbekistani Defender | Photo: Inquirer.net

    On the 14th minute mark, Uzbekistan scored another goal courtesy of Mid Fielder Sardor Rashidiv beating Daisuke Sato at the right wing. The ball went horizontal bar-high but enough to get pass Azkals’ goalie Neil Etheridge for the second time.

    Downed 2-Nil, the thousands of Filipinos inside the arena motivated their team by chanting “Let’s go Azkals! Let’s go!” that pumped-up the Nationals.

    Martin Steuble made a cross pass to Iain Ramsey who was at the left side near the penalty box. Unfortunately, Ramsey was clipped by his defender, fell on the ground and got no call.

    The Azkals intensified their defense midway of the 1st half and started to get good stoppages.

    Lucky break for the Azkals as Misagh Bahadoran finally got a call after getting hit by Anzur Ismailov. The Filipinos were awarded with a free kick at the right corner but over-kicked it and wasted another good opportunity.

    After the failed free-kick, the Azkals were quick to react on the defense. Martin Steuble lob-passed the ball to the rushing Javier Patino at the left side in front of the Uzbekistan goal keeper but Patino missed a decent header by a foot.

    The National Booters gained much confidence offensively after the Uzbekistanis’ two immediate goals. They were able to sneak in the middle many times. But just like their good defense, the taller Uzbekistanis deflected any scoring chance that the Azkals had.

    Just as the Azkals were gaining their momentum, Igor Sergeev of Team Uzbekistan beat Daisuke Sato in a footrace and converted another goal at the 41:38th mark of the 1st half.

    After the 2 minute extension given by the officials, the first 45 minutes of the match ended and the Azkals headed to the dugout with a 0-3 deficit.

    Coach Thomas Dooley started the 2nd half by fielding in Fil-German Stephan Shrock who replaced Iain Ramsey. Shrock who plays for Greuther Furth in Bundesliga is arguably the best defender on the Azkals roster.

    Stephen Palla located Javier Patino once again in the middle for a slider but Patino kicked the ball right into the hands of the goal keeper. That was the closest field goal attempt that the Azkals had.

    Coach Dooley gambled his 3rd and last substitution of the night on his back-up Mid Fielder Kevin Ingreso while Uzbekistan Head Coach Samvel Babayan has not consumed a single substitution in 65 minutes.

    Igor Sergeev tallied his second goal with a header off a free kick from the left side at the 66th minute mark. The 6’1” Sergeev buried the Azkals in a 0-4 scoring defecit.

    Stephan Shrock did not disappoint Coach Thomas Dooley and his teammates as he placed Philippines on the scoreboard with a curve ball from a long-distance free kick. With Shrock’s goal, the Azkals were just trailing 3 more goals, 4-1 with 25 more minutes before full time.

    Sardor Rashidov scored his 2nd point at the 80:00 minute mark to dim Azkals’ hope of pulling an upset win. Uzbekistan regained its 4 point lead, 4-1.

    The Azkals suffered their 1st casualty after 2 victories abroad and will be tied at the 2nd place with Uzbekistan behind North Korea in Group H.

    After the elimination phase, top 2 teams of each group will advance to the next round. The Azkals will face North Korea next in their own territory next month. - JoeyBoyCapos/TheSummitExpress

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