Lucena strikes again as Azkals down Maldives in friendly

Santino Honasan on Sep 04, 2015 12:38 AM
Lucena strikes again as Azkals down Maldives in friendly
The Azkals get a momentum-boosting win over the Maldives ahead of their all-important World Cup Qualifiers match against Uzbekistan

Jerry Lucena is starting to become a nightmare for the Maldives national team, as the Fil-Danish midfielder helped the Philippine Azkals to a 2-0 win over the Red Snappers in an international friendly match Thursday night at the Rizal Memorial Football Field.

Both of Lucena’s international conversions so far, have come against the Maldives defensive line, the first one during an AFC Challenge Cup semifinals match.

“Maybe I should ask the Maldives to give me a house down there so I’ll stop scoring,” Lucena jokingly told ABS-CBN Sports following the match.

All jokes aside though, Lucena admitted that the win didn't come easily.

“Today was a hard game for us, because Maldives stand really low on the field, and on this field, it’s really hard to make the game go quick, so today was really hard.”

While the Azkals were in possession of the ball for the majority of the game, the conversions didn’t come as easy as they would have liked. Early attempts from Stephan Palla and Patrick Reichelt proved to be fruitless, and the two squads went into the midgame break, tied at nil-nil.

The first conversion of the match in fact came from a Maldives player, Samdhooh Mohammed. Unfortunately for the visitors, Samdhooh blasted a clean header straight into their own goal to give the Azkals a 1-0 lead at the 49 minute mark.

It was only six minutes later that Lucena fired a header of his own to give the home squad a two-point cushion.

The Azkals’ win margin could have been higher in the second half, but Maldives keeper Imran Mohammed stepped up after already allowing two goals on his watch, denying attempts from Stephan Schrock, OJ Porteria, and Javier Patino. Still, it was too late for the Maldivian side.

Our own keeper Neil Etheridge also put on a stellar defensive display of his own to shut the visitors out.

After the match, captain Phil Younghusband spoke about the importance of getting everyone loose and ready, just days before their World Cup Qualifiers match against Uzbekistan.

“Five days before a big game, it’s important that a lot of the players get some playing time and get used to the conditions. Most of our players are coming from abroad, and it’s different conditions playing abroad to when you’re playing here the Philippines, so it was good for everyone to get a run out...we got the win, which was important, and it was good that everyone was able to get some playing time…”

Equally important is that the Azkals head into their next match with tons of momentum.

Younghusband, Lucena, and the rest of the Azkals will be back on the pitch with significantly bigger stakes as they look for their third straight World Cup Qualifiers win against Uzbekistan on Tuesday, September 8 at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan.

Catch the Azkals vs Uzbekistan LIVE on ABS-CBN Sports+Action 23!

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