Azkals draw Yemen, stay unbeaten in AFC Asian Cup qualifier
BACOLOD CITY – It was a bittersweet homecoming for national team veterans Phil and James Younghusband last Tuesday night.
Returning to the stadium where they represented the Philippines for the first time as teenagers, the Younghusband brothers scored a goal each to salvage a 2-2 draw against Yemen in AFC Asian Cup Qualifying here.
The result at Panaad Stadium was enough to keep the Azkals on top of Group F, although the Filipinos feel slightly disappointed not to make the most of home advantage against a team that had a difficult time reaching this football-loving city.
“We’re a bit disappointed not to get three points, but the team fought hard until the end,” said Phil Younghusband who jacked up his tally to 47 international goals. “We can still take a lot of positives from this game. We’re still top of the group and hopefully get a better result next time.”
“I’m happy with the 2-2 and being in first place in the group,” said Azkals coach Thomas Dooley. “We didn’t get three points but a point is still good. The players gave their all.”
Phil equalized with an exquisite free kick in the first half, before James made sure there was no heartbreak for the Azkals with a second half header.
For all the talk on their struggles of traveling and finding difficulty with the weather conditions here, the Yemenis looked likely to score each time they counter.
“We’re satisfied with the result considering the difficult conditions of playing here,” said Yemen coach Abrham Mebratu. “Traveling here was tough and I have to give my players credit for fighting hard until the final whistle. We would have loved to get three points and take top spot in the group, but the Philippines also showed why it is one of the top teams in the group. We’re happy with our position now and we can be proud with the performance because the players have not played in this kind of weather.”
The Azkals increased their haul to seven points from three matches for top spot in the group with Yemen two points behind. The two sides face off anew in Doha on Oct 10.
Mudir Al Radaei gave Yemen a shock lead in the 27th minute with a diving header off a corner kick, stunning the crowd at
But Phil levelled three minutes later with a trademark free kick, scoring from 30 yards out – a goal similar to his strike against Tajikistan last June and Indonesia last December in the Suzuki Cup.
But Yemen always proved dangerous on the break and the visitors pulled ahead again in the 55th minute with a well worked counter attack completed by Abdul Al-Matari.
James snatched another equalizer with a header off a Manny Ott delivery in the 71st minute as the Azkals grabbed a share of the points.
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