PH Azkals overcome Maldives for 2nd win in World Cup qualifiers
MALE – Iain Ramsay and Patrick Strauss struck in the second half as the Philippines overcame a stiff challenge from the Maldives, 2-1, Thursday for only its second victory in the joint 2022 Fifa World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifying at National Stadium here.
Ramsay fired the opener in the 53rd minute, controlling excellently from the edge of the area before firing a rocket from a narrow angle to beat Mohammed Faisal on the Maldives goal. The second goal came in the 69th minute when Strauss stabbed home from close range after Luke Woodland and Patrick Reichelt were denied by the upright.
Substitute Hassan Naiz denied the Azkals of a clean sheet with a goal in stoppage time that turned out to be too little too late.
Coming off a goalless draw against China in Bacolod City last month, the Azkals traveled to this country known for its postcard-pretty islands and beaches, needing to maintain a level of consistency in their play.
With Martin Steuble out due to suspension, coach Scott Cooper sent in Luke Woodland to play on the right side of the five-man backline. But it was the hosts who were knocking the ball around with confidence early on with the Azkals struggling to get a grip on the match.
Still, the visitors had the first real chance of the match when the Maldivians were whistled for a handball inside the area. Reichelt stepped up to take the penalty only to be denied by Faisal.
A goalless first half prompted the Azkals to amp up the intensity after the restart. Ramsay fired a warning with a snapshot from the edge of the area just 30 seconds into the second half.
The win pushed the Azkals’ tally to seven points from four matches, although they remained in third spot behind Syria and China. The Filipinos travel to Dubai on Friday to face the Syrians on Tuesday at Rashid Stadium.
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