Philippine Azkals finally beat Laos, 2-0
HITHADHOO, Maldives— The Philippines finally conquered an old nemesis in Laos on Thursday night and kept its semifinal hopes alive in the AFC Challenge Cup at Hithadhoo Zone Stadium here.
Defender Simone Rota and Patrick Reichelt found the back of the net in each half as the Philippine Azkals nailed their first win of the tournament with a 2-0 triumph against a Laotian side that played with little attacking intent.
The Azkals have achieved little success against their Southeast Asian rivals in the past few years, losing two times since 2006 and battling back to secure a dramatic draw when they last met in a tournament in 2010 in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
But with the stakes higher, the Filipinos played with drive and urgency to take maximum points and hike their tally to four from two matches, which puts them on top of Group B.
Rota struck a thunderous volley five minutes from half time after Stephan Schrock’s effort was saved into his path by Laos goalkeeper Keodouangdeth Vathana. Reichelt doubled the lead with a glancing header from a Younghusband corner kick in the 63rd minute.
The two other teams in the group—Turkmenistan and Afghanistan—were slated to play later. But regardless of the result in the other match, a win by the Azkals on Saturday at the National Stadium in Male will be enough to secure passage to the next round.
Coach Thomas Dooley made six changes to the side that drew with Afghanistan on Tuesday, with injured players Neil Etheridge and Chris Greatwich replaced by Roland Muller and Jason de Jong, respectively, and Martin Steuble making way for Paul Mulders, who was a late scratch in the lineup of the last game due to seasickness.
Dennis Cagara also made his first start of the tournament, replacing Daisuke Sato, while Rob Gier and Phil Younghusband, back after serving suspensions, came in for Jerry Lucena and Ruben Doctora, respectively.
With Schrock playing up front, the Azkals looked more threatening but still lacked the cutting edge to constantly break down Laos, which refused to give them space to operate. The Laotians were limited to few counterattacking opportunities.
The Azkals’ first chance came after just nine minutes when Juani Guirado rattled the crossbar with a firm header off a Younghusband corner.
Younghusband had a couple of chances that went begging with the first one from close-range where he was unable to get solid contact on a Schrock cross. The usually prolific striker, who was top scorer of the tournament two years ago, skied a left-footed effort in the 76th minute with the goal at his mercy.
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