Heartbroken Azkals now set sights on Asian Cup
Yemeni player Ahmed Al-Sarori’s name may not ring a bell, but the 17-year-old is already responsible for one of the gloomiest moments in Philippine football.
His 82nd minute goal sucked the life out of Rizal Memorial Stadium Thursday night, while lifting the spirits of his war-torn nation after the Yemenis’ stunning 1-0 win over the Philippines.
READ: Dooley refuses to dwell on missed chances in loss to Yemen
It was a make-or-break situation for the Azkals’ dreams of making the next round of World Cup qualifying and they failed to rise to the challenge against a lower-ranked team they already defeated in Qatar last June, leaving them searching for answers with the next two games four months away.
“I would like to say sorry to all the fans we disappointed,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami. “We will bounce back from this. Our goal is still there, which is playing in the Asian Cup (in 2019). Now we have time to think what needs to be done.”
The Azkals face a long four months of doubt and scrutiny, before they battle Uzbekistan again in Tashkent on March 24 and North Korea five days later in Manila. This time, the Azkals will already have their targets lowered as they try to hang on to third spot which would guarantee them a place in the third round of Asian Cup qualifying.
In truth, the Azkals didn’t play up to their standards as they lacked ideas breaking down Yemen, notwithstanding the two saves made at the goalline by the visitors.
“I didn’t see anything,” Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said on the two clearances made at the goalline. “I just saw the goalkeeper made a great save. I think there was a clear shot from Martin (Steuble) and we just couldn’t finish it.”
The Azkals did see plenty of the ball, but they hardly threatened, lacking the dynamism in areas of the pitch where they could really hurt the Yemenis.
The poor performance was attributed to plenty of factors, ranging from the lack of fitness to lack of practice together, but international football could be unforgiving and the Azkals learned it the hard way.
“I mean much luck was on their (Yemeni) side as well but that was what we should be preparing for,” Palami said. “I don’t think the team was complacent. We were creating chances. But there were lapses in concentration.”
Now more than ever, the Azkals need each other as they try to salvage what’s left of their campaign.
”With a loss like this we just have to really make sure that we stick together and regroup,” said winger Iain Ramsay. “We have to think about what happened, but we can’t dwell on it. We know we have the quality to turn things around.”
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