A goal down, The Azkals dug deep and turned the tables around to win the match against Tajikistan via two goals to one and sent the Philippines to its maiden appearance in the AFC Asian Cup.
Everyone can still remember it like it happened last night. The memory is still fresh in every Filipino football fans’ mind and you can ask everyone who watched the game and they will tell you the story really well.
However, two years after that amazing feat, where are they now? Let’s take a look at how that historic match helped their careers out.
1) Neil Etheridge
Let’s kick this off with a bang! The wall between the posts for the Azkals, Neil Etheridge, was turning a year old with his current club Cardiff City FC that time when he was called into action for the three stars and a sun.
Knowing a spot for the Philippines in the AFC Asian Cup is at stake, he didn’t hesitate the call of his country. Interestingly, he came flew to the Philippines after securing a three-one win for Cardiff City against Brentford two weeks ahead of the biggest match of their lives.
He might’ve conceded a penalty against Tajikistan but his efforts kept the Philippines in contention for their AFC Asian Cup debut and saw the game out as victors.
“We never make it easy for ourselves, do we?” said Etheridge in his post-match interview giving out a bit of a chuckle as he was trying to hold back the tears after that momentous night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
In two months after the victory in Manila, Etheridge helped the Bluebirds secure their promotion to the Premier League after a draw against Reading FC sealed their second-place finish in the EFL.
From then on, his career sky-rocketed as he became the first Filipino and Southeast Asian player to feature in the English Premier League and have had quite a few achievements for himself during their one-year stint in the English top-flight football.
In his debut match in the Premier League, he saved the penalty against Callum Wilson of Bournemouth, which made him the first goalkeeper to save a penalty in his Premier League debut since Allan McGregor for Hull City in 2013.
A week after his debut, he also saved a late-game penalty against Kenedy of Newcastle United to gave his side their first point in the Premier League after a goalless draw.
Though they would be relegated at the end of the season, they will always remember the highs of that season. Currently, they sit on 9th place in the Championship where Etheridge missed the first two months of the season due to a hamstring injury during their 3-2 loss against Wigan Athletic.
2) Phil Younghusband
The man. The myth. The legend. He has scored 52 goals in 108 appearances for the Philippines and his half-century goal sealed the victory against Tajikistan and gave the country its sweetest victory in ages that sent us to the Asian Cup for the very first time.
He would feature in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup squad headed by world-renowned Sven Goran-Erikson and also found the back of the net against Timor Leste.
He’d also played in all three matches in their AFC Asian Cup debut but came on as a substitute.
On the 18th of November, Phil hung up his boots after serving his country for over 13 years. In an interview with Cedelf Tupas and Chris Greatwich in their “Across The Line” podcast, he said ” It was an amazing moment. Anyone could have taken that (penalty) and scored. But it was all about qualifying to the Asian Cup,” recalling the moment he scored his 50th goal for the country.
As of the moment, he’s happily retired and spending his time with his wife Margaret Hall and are expecting a baby boy come summer of this year. Perhaps we could see someone to follow the legend’s footsteps?
3) Kevin Ingreso
He sparked the comeback and made us believe we will make it to Dubai for the Asian Cup. Kevin Ingreso, who’s been playing his club football here in the Philippines since 2015 made a name for himself for the national team in this game.
Down by a goal against Tajikistan, James, Phil and Iain Ramsay all combined for a lovely play which saw Ramsay sending in the cross inside the box for Ingreso who then headed the ball past the keeper for the equalizer.
That equalizer virtually sent the Philippines to the Asian Cup and Phil Younghusband’s half-century goal puts the icing on the cake.
Since this momentous feat for Ingreso, he’s had quite a few success with his former club Ceres-Negros FC where he’s won two successive PFL trophies before moving over to Thailand with Buriram United.
Now with Buriram, he’s scored a goal in 13 appearances and has been an integral part of their squad. Last year, they finished second in the Thailand Premier League.
4) James Younghusband
Another one who’s been part of the national team for over a decade, James Younghusband has offered everything for his country and has been an integral part of that winning squad two years ago.
Coming in as a substitute for Misagh Bahadoran on the 71st minute of the match against Tajikistan, James provided the boost they needed to mount a comeback and seal the victory that could resonate for years to come.
Since he came on the match, the dynamics of the game changed real quick. The combination between him and his brother Phil was evident enough that they orchestrated the equalizer from the middle of the park.
Currently, James Younghusband plays for Ceres-Negros FC and has seen some action in the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup. A feat which he wasn’t able to achieve with his brother during their days with Loyola-Meralco Sparks and Davao Aguilas FC.
5) Misagh Bahadoran
Pestering around the back four of Tajikistan in that magical night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, Misagh Bahadoran has been one of the players that made it miserable for the Tajik defenders.
He opened up a few chances for the Philippines that night which exploited the holes in the visitors’ defence. He might not score that night but the effort he gave for the country that night deserved a round of applause from the crowd as he came off for James Younghusband.
After that night, he continued to ply his trade with Perak FA but wasn’t able to make something out his stint out there in Malaysia. He took a break from club football in 2019 but continued to play casually as he suited up for Anton Del Rosario’s Laro FC in the Philam Life7s Football League.
Come the 2020 season, he’ll be suiting up again with Global FC, the club he served for over six years, and will be hoping to make amends of the lost time away from home.
6) Iain Ramsay
He’s had his time to shine for the Azkals when he scored the winning goal against North Korea in 2016 but on that glorious night of March 27, 2018, Iain Ramsay provided the assist that gave the country it’s first AFC Asian Cup appearance.
Running down the left wing, Ramsay received an exquisite pass from Phil Younghusband then sent the ball inside the box for Ingreso to head into the back of the net.
After qualifying for the Asian Cup, he continued his run of form with his club Felda United in Malaysia as he became a regular in the starting eleven and also scored two goals in 16 appearances.
He would also feature in the Philippines’ match against South Korea as a substitute and missed out on their remaining matches in the Asian Cup. Despite this, he was plucked by Sukothai FC and has scored five goals in his 20 appearances for the club.
Currently, he plays with PT Prauchap, the club he was supposed to play for as early as 2018 had he not moved to Felda United at the beginning of that year.
Photo by: Philippines Football League