Philippine Azkals left heartbroken as Yemen claims first WCQ win
Santino Honasan on Nov 12, 2015 10:56 PM
Yemen's Ahmed Al Sarori scored the game-clinching goal late in the second half
The Philippine Azkals could be seeing their Russia 2018 dreams fade away after falling to Yemen, 0-1 in the second leg of the Group Stage of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Thursday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
The Azkals have now lost three of their last four matches, with the lone bright spot coming via a scoreless draw against North Korea.
Having beaten the Yemeni squad, 2-0 earlier this year, this match was supposed to be the momentum builder for the Pinoy squad as they face Group H’s top two teams in early 2016.
Early on however, it was clear that the visitors were not going to allow that to be the case, as they were able to stifle the home team’s offense and sent it into the midgame break at an even 0-0.
The Azkals, who were playing without team captain Phil Younghusband and starting keeper Neil Etheridge, had numerous golden opportunities to alter the scoreboard in the second half, but perhaps the two closest attempts were the two most painful ones to see come up short. Midway through the second half, Jerry Lucena and Martin Steuble – on two separate instances – came within mere inches of converting for the Pinoys, only to see their shots saved by Yemeni keeper Ali Ayash.
In the 83rd minute, Ahmed Al Sarori connected on Yemen’s first goal of the tournament which eventually clinched their first win of the tournament, leaving the six thousand strong at the Rizal Memorial Stadium heartbroken.
“It was difficult, it was difficult in the first half because we didn’t play the way we wanted.” Azkals mentor Thomas Dooley told the media following the match.
Dooley also commented that this team was more aggressive than the one they beat in Qatar last June.
The Philippines now sits at two wins, three losses, and one draw in six games for seven points, good for third in Group H.
Making things bleaker is that on the other side of Group H, Uzbekistan handed North Korea their first loss of the tournament, pushing the Uzbeks to 12 points, just a point behind the still-leading North Koreans.
This will be the last World Cup Qualifiers assignment for the Azkals in 2015. The good thing is that they will have quite a lot of time to prepare for their last two matches in March of 2016 against Uzbekistan and North Korea.
Here’s how Group H looks like as of November 13, 2015