Azkals survive Tajikistan to claim solo first in Group F

Azkals survive Tajikistan to claim solo first in Group F
Javi Patiño (20) scored a brace, while Phil Younghusband and Daisuke Sato each added a goal to help the Philippine Azkals beat Tajikistan in Dushanbe.

They came, they saw, and they conquered.

However, it wasn't easy. 

Playing on enemy grounds, the Philippine Azkals emerged victorious against the Tajikistan national team, 4-3, in 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers Round 3 action, Tuesday evening at the Pamir Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. 

Skipper Phil Younghusband got things going for the Pinoy side 28 minutes into the match, scoring his 46th international goal for the Philippines after converting from a free kick. 

Javier Patiño then doubled the Philippines' lead in the 41st minute, flicking it in from a Mike Ott assist. 

Patiño then doubled his scoring tally to start the second half, shaking off Tajik keeper Abdulaziz Makhkamov for the clean shot on goal. 

It sure looked like the Azkals were on their way to coasting through the match, but the home team began to pick up steam, starting with a 57th minute penalty conversion by Parvizdzhon Umarbayev. 

Four minutes later, Tajikistan pulled one back once again, courtesy of Dilshod Vasiev. 

With the Azkals' lead slowly evaporating, Daisuke Sato provided an all-important momentum-breaking goal for the Pinoys and creating a bit of separation in the 79th minute. 

Tajikistan wasn't done however, as Manuchekhr Dzhalilov got on the board and cut the Azkal lead back to just one goal. 

With four minutes of injury time added, the home team scrambled to find an equalizer, while the Philippines battled to preserve their lead. 

Thankfully for the Pinoy side, they managed to hold on to the 4-3 lead as the referee sounded the final whistle. 

With the win, the Azkals improve to six points on two wins. They currently hold solo first in Group F. Yemen sits at second with one win and one draw for four points. Nepal is at third with one draw and one loss for one point. Tajikistan remains winless and scoreless so far in the tournament. 

It'll be quite a while before the Azkals return to AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers action, as their next match against Yemen is scheduled for September 5th. When they head back to the pitch, it will be at home soil, as they host the Yemeni squad at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City. 

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