The Philippine Azkals just made a statement in their first of two games away from home as they were able to fend off the Maldives and take away all three points in Male via two-one scoreline.
As expected, it was a tough match for the Philippines just like what happened in 2014 when they first met but this time, the Azkals imposed their dominance over the South Asians as they were able to secure all three points heading into a tough encounter at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai this coming November 19 as they face Syria.
First half was not much eventful for both teams but since the first whistle, it was a physical game. John Patrick-Strauss was on the receiving end of an elbow early on to the match which forced him to play with a bandage on his head.
The Philippines thought they could get their lead in the first half when they won a penalty but Patrick Reichelt’s effort was guessed well by Mohammed Faisal.
After the half-time break, Scott Cooper’s wards went onto the pitch rejuvenated and ready to go for the win. On the 52nd minute, Iain Ramsay put the visitors ahead thanks to a lovely sequence of play with Strauss.
A pass from Strauss freed up the Sukothai FC midfielder who then banged it into the back of the net past Faisal to the jubilation of the travelling fans as well as the entire squad.
From then on, the Azkals found their real source of strength and went onto see the game through ahead of the opposition. It was on the 68th minute that they were able to get their insurance goal thanks to Strauss.
Luke Woodland tried to fire from distance but his effort hit the crossbar. Reichelt went for the spoils of the shot but his header hit the same part of the bar. Strauss got the lucky bounce which he then stabbed into the hearts of the Maldivians in the stadium.
Some late-game action saw the home side go for the possible comeback but things were just not going their side. On the 78th minute, Ahmed Rizuvan fired inside the box and force Neil Etheridge to pull off a fantastic save.
Finally, the Maldives were able to score past the Cardiff City FC custodian as the clock was winding down. Hassan Naiz went on to pick up the spoils of an earlier attempt to save the home side from some embarrassment.
That win puts the Philippines tied with China PR in group A with the mighty dragons leading over the Azkals thanks to a very dominant +12 in goal difference. This will be changed later this evening as they face Syria in Dubai.