Azkals draw with Yemenis, stay on top
BACOLOD CITY—The Philippines picked a precious point after fighting back from a goal down twice to salvage a 2-2 draw against Yemen, Tuesday night in the Asian Cup qualifier at Panaad Stadium here.
Brothers Phil and James Younghusband made a memorable return to the stadium where they made their international debuts 12 years ago, scoring in each half as the Azkals stayed on top of the group with seven points, two ahead of the Yemenis, whom they will face on Oct. 10 in Doha, Qatar.
It was a bittersweet result for the brothers in particular as they took delight in the goals they scored, yet felt a tinge of disappointment over their inability to pick up maximum points against a team that struggled to even reach this bustling 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.”
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who produced some spectacular saves at the start of the match and late in stoppage time shared Younghusband’s sentiments.
“Slightly disappointed but we need to take the positives out of the game,” said Etheridge. “It’s a draw. It’s not a loss and we keep a good unbeaten record going and we look forward to the next game in Doha next month.”
The Yemenis proved dangerous on the counter-attack as they exploited the Azkals’ inability to recover defensively off set pieces.
Defender Mudir Al Radaei gave Yemen a shock lead in the 27th minute with a diving header off a corner kick, stunning the crowd of close to 3,000 at Panaad.
Phil leveled 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 forged another equalizer with a header off a Manny Ott delivery in the 71st minute.