Azkals rue missed opportunity vs Syria
DUBAI—THE Philippines walked away from Maktoum Bin Rashid Stadium with mixed emotions following a 1-0 defeat to leader Syria on Tuesday night in their Fifa World Cup and AFC Asian Cup qualifying clash here.
The loss left a bitter taste, considering how easy they gave away the goal in the 23rd minute, but the Azkals are also taking plenty of encouragement at the way they stretched and pushed a quality side in Syria with their high-pressure and aggressive play in the second half.
“It hurts the most because that might be our best performance [in the competition so far],” said Azkals coach Scott Cooper, whose team remained third in Group A with seven points, eight behind the unbeaten Syrians.
“When you look at what we did to Syria in the second half, we made them look ordinary. We had three to four chances. We were fit and fresh. They were tired and desperate. That was a team that is top of the group and has World Cup aspirations and we are a team that 12 weeks ago, got smashed by them in Bacolod.”
Ward Alsamh struck in the 23rd minute, punishing the Azkals for a momentary lapse in concentration as he pounced on a low cross from Osama Omari off a quickly taken free kick.
The Azkals missed golden opportunities in the second half with Angel Guirado sending a first-time shot off target in the 54th minute off a fine ball from Curt Dizon, before substitute Mark Hartmann fired a shot straight to Ibrahim Alma in the 73rd minute after some nice interplay between Mike Ott and Iain Ramsay on the left.
“We’re seeing a resurgence from Philippine football and Azkals football,” Cooper said. “We have to be really proud of the performance. We didn’t get the result. It is a what-if moment. Everybody can see what we did to Syria in that second half.”
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge said the loss was tough to take considering the way they controlled the game in the late stages while the Syrians were on the back foot.
“We dominated the game, we controlled the game and I think it’s the first time we were playing out of the back properly and creating chances,” Etheridge said. “The performances have been good [in the last four matches]. The character of the squad has been fantastic.”
“We can be proud of our team and where we are [in the standings], but at the same time we have to stay ambitious,” Cooper added.
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