THE Philippine national men’s football team, undefeated to date in group play in the final round of the qualifiers for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, looks to stay unblemished when it plays Yemen today at the Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City.
Boasting of a 2-0 record and six points in Group F, the Philippine Azkals enter their home turf looking to create further distance from the rest of the chasing pack in their group and position themselves better to advance to the main draw of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup that will take place in the United Arab Emirates.
The latest of the victories of the Thomas Dooley-coached Azkals in the qualifiers came at the expense of Tajikistan, 4-3, on June 13 in Dushanbe.
A brace from forward Javier Patiño and late heroics from defender Daisuke Sato helped the Philippines notch the key Asian Cup Qualifier win.
Skipper Phil Younghusband got the scoring parade going for the Philippines as he scored on a free kick 28 minutes into the match played at the Republican Central Stadium in Tajikistan.
Mr. Patiño then added a second goal for the Azkals in the 41st minute that helped his team to a 2-0 lead at the halftime break.
The Filipino-Spanish forward was once again on the scoring end for the Azkals in the 48th minute to take what was seemingly a commanding 3-0 lead.
Showing so much pride, however, Tajikistan would fight its way back in the match, reducing the Azkals’ lead to just a solitary point, 3-2, in the 61st minute.
But Mr. Sato would nip Tajikistan’s rally in the 79th minute with a strike off the left foot from the side to give the Azkals added breathing space.
Tajikistan tried to rally back anew but the closest it could get was 4-3 as the Philippines held on for the win.
The victory by the Azkals was in follow-up to their 4-1 Asian Cup Qualifier conquest of Nepal on home soil in March.
Against Yemen (1-1), which is coming off a 0-0 draw against Nepal in its last game, the Azkals are parading a mix of old and new faces in the absence of some key players, notably Messrs. Patiño (injury) and Sato (cards).
Seeing action for the Azkals today are Misagh Bahadoran (Global Cebu FC), Dylan De Bruycker (Davao Aguilas FC), Carlos De Murga (Ceres Negros FC), Patrick Deyto (Global Cebu FC), Neil Etheridge (Cardiff City FC) Harry Foll (FC Hansa Rostock), Joshua Grommen (Ceres Negros FC), Kevin Ingreso (Ceres Negros FC), Tyler Matas (FC Meralco Manila), Hikaru Minegishi (Global Cebu FC), Jim Junior Muñoz (Ceres Negros FC) and Paul Mulders (Global Cebu FC).
Also part of the team are Nicholas O’Donnell (Davao Aguilas FC), Manuel Ott (Ceres Negros FC), Mike Rigoberto Ott (Angthong United), Stephan Palla (Wolfsberger AC), Iain Ramsay (Ceres Negros FC), Patrick Reichelt (Ceres Negros FC), Simone Rota (Davao Aguilas FC), Dennis Villanueva (Global Cebu FC), Luke Woodland (Ceres Negros FC), James Younghusband (Davao Aguilas FC) and Phil Younghusband (Davao Aguilas FC).
Mr. Dooley will be assisted by coaches Kurt Kowarz and Chieffy Caligdong.
Asked for his thoughts on the Azkals’ game today, local football observer and writer Lorenzo del Carmen said the Philippine lineup against Yemen is a competitive lot albeit presents an interesting dynamic with the changes that took place.
“I’m curious to see how Dooley will set up his defense. He shuffles between a back four or a three-man backline. Daisuke Sato (cards) and Amani Aguinaldo (injury) are unavailable so the likes of Carli De Murga and Simone Rota have been recalled while young players such as Tyler Matas and Joshua Grommen are given chances to impress… One big worry for me is Javier Patiño’s absence due to injury. He scored in the last two qualifiers and his absence will be a big blow on the offensive end,” Mr. Del Carmen said.
The Philippines-Yemen match in Bacolod City will kick off at 7:30 p.m.