On the back of their heels, PH Azkals vow to be more lethal vs Guam
BACOLOD CITY—The Philippines knew the margin for error would be slim against big teams in the World Cup Qualifiers.
And while the Azkals paid dearly for defensive mistakes in a 5-2 defeat to Syria late Thursday night, they aren’t about to panic with a match against Guam looming in four days.
The Azkals got off to a dream start with Javier Patiño’s header giving them the lead before close to 3,000 fans at Panaad Stadium.
But two top-class goals from Omar Al-Soma, a penalty from Faris Al-Khatib and a couple of quality finishes from Khaled Almbayed and Mahmoud Almawas gave the Eagles maximum points.
Substitute Mike Ott grabbed a late consolation goal for the Azkals, but Syria almost immediately scored on the counter courtesy of Almawas to put the outcome beyond reach.
The loss may haunt the Azkals down the road especially with goal difference coming in to play, but coach Scott Cooper and captain Stephan Schrock are taking heart that they took the game to the visiting side early on.
“The positive thing is that our plan worked, but unfortunately for us, the striker of Syria (Al-Soma) had a golden boot,” Schrock said. “I’ve barely seen finishing just like this. There’s kinda like a gap, but if you look at the stats, we were not far from the other team and we took the game to them.”
The Syrians struggled to deal with set pieces early on and the Azkals could have doubled the lead with good chances from Angel Guirado and Patiño.
But Syria settled into the match and they exploited all sorts of gaps in the Azkals defense and used the size of the 6-foot-3 Al-Soma inside the area.
“Whatever happened tonight, the worst thing we can do is overreact,” Cooper told the Inquirer. “We lost against Syria and they are a good team.”
“Do we change everything in a game where we rocked them for 20 minutes? I don’t think so,” Cooper said. “We were brave, we went out and got on the front foot, we just didn’t have the know-how and the [intellect] to maintain that.”
The Irish coach expects a better, more lethal team when the Azkals take on Guam on Tuesday in the US territory.
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