March 16, 2011

Azkals Advance Due to 1 Goal in AFC Qualifier vs Mongolians

ULAN BATOR—The dream start nearly ended in a nightmare for the Philippines in this freezing Mongolian capital.

Playing in conditions it had never experienced before, the Philippine Azkals banged in an early goal only to struggle the rest of the way as Mongolia scored a 2-1 upset in the second leg of their Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup pre-qualifying match on Tuesday at the Mongolian Football Federation field.

But the 2-nil scoreline from the first leg in Bacolod in February and James Younghusband’s fourth-minute strike on Tuesday proved enough to propel the Azkals to the group qualifying tournament in Myanmar starting March 21.

The Azkals will play against Myanmar, Bangladesh and Palestine in Rangoon with the top two squads moving to the main tournament in 2012.

With three players from their regular starting 11 missing the match for various reasons, the Azkals groped for form in a game that was played in temperatures ranging from minus-5 to minus-7 degree Celsius.

It took only four minutes for the Azkals to unlock the Mongolian defense as Chieffy Caligdong, who had blasted the first goal in the first leg, beat two defenders on the left flank, before firing his shot straight at Tseveensuren Ganbayar, who spilled the ball.

Younghusband was quickest to react to the confusion and he tucked in the rebound.

Phil Younghusband nearly doubled the lead two minutes later when his curling shot from just outside the box went inches wide of the right upright with the Mongolian keeper already beaten.

“I think we played just 60 percent to our potential,” said Azkals’ German coach Hans Michael Weiss.

“The performance of the team should also be judged based on the harsh conditions here. It’s difficult when there’s a 50 degree difference in the weather you are used to playing in.”

Philippine Football Federation president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, who watched the match from the VIP box, near where Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia sat, said the Azkals should be lauded for hanging tough.

“I’m happy because we progressed to Myanmar, and I think that’s the most important thing,” said Araneta.

His sentiment was shared by team manager Dan Palami.

“We would have wanted to win the game,” Palami said. “But to have survived under these conditions, we should congratulate our boys. We must now focus on the group stage in Myanmar.”

“Definitely, the conditions took a toll on us,” said skipper Aly Borromeo. “Our reaction time was a split second later.”

That split second proved critical when Mongolia equalized in the 22nd minute through skipper Lumbengarav Donorov, who appeared to be in an offside position, pounced on some slack defending.

Growing in confidence and dominating the midfield battle, the Mongolians grabbed the lead in the 36th minute when Bayasgalan Garidamagnai followed up his saved penalty with a strong close-range strike.

It was another mental lapse that led to the penalty as Tsedenbal Norjmoo beat Jason Sabio to the ball, before the Filipino pulled him down just inside the area.

Korean referee Jin Ko-hyung was quick to point to the penalty spot, and although Azkals stand-in keeper Eduard Sacapano guessed right to save the spot kick, he was helpless when Garidamagnai bundled home the rebound.

Apart from the marauding Mongolians, there was more concern for the Azkals when Phil Younghusband limped off in the 65th minute because of a suspected right hamstring tear.

With Borromeo patrolling central defense, the Azkals weathered wave after wave of attack in the second half.
Ray Jonsson played brilliantly to disrupt Mongolia’s midfield play, despite arriving here around midnight on Tuesday.

“For me, Ray is our man of the match,” said Weiss of the Fil-Icelandic standout, who was moved to play the defensive midfield role after playing leftback in the second half of the first leg.

Weiss dedicated the match to the victims of the earthquake in Japan, where the Azkals trained for a week before the duel.



the match between Azkals and Persians were tied at 0-0 so I guess they really need Phil to be back in there lineup.

under eyes

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