Philippine Azkals show tremendous heart in close loss to Uzbekistan

Santino Honasan on Mar 25, 2016 12:16 AM
Azkals show tremendous heart in close loss to Uzbekistan
Keeper Neil Etheridge (1) put on an amazing defensive effort but ultimately conceded a single goal as the Azkals fell to Uzbekistan, 1-0, Thursday evening

A single glancing header was the only attempt that the Philippine Azkals weren’t able to stop. Unfortunately, it only takes one to win, as Uzbekistan pulls out a 1-0 win over the Azkals, Thursday evening at the Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Already heading into the matchup with a number of key losses, the Pinoy side took yet another blow ten minutes into the contest, as OJ Porteria was controversially booked with a straight red card because of a questionable challenge, leaving the Azkals to continue on with just ten men on the pitch.

A far cry from their 5-1 loss against the same Uzbekistan team in Bulacan a couple of months back, the depleted Azkals showed tremendous heart, as they managed to frustrate the home team by clogging the passing lanes and making the shots difficult. While the Pinoys couldn’t push the offense, it was their defense that was keeping them in the match.

The first half however, belonged to Azkals keeper Neil Etheridge, who came up with around five amazing saves late in the half to hold the stalemate up into the midgame intermission.

Etheridge picked up where he left off in the second half, as he came up with three more saves to preserve the scoreless draw up until the 59th minute mark.

Unfortunately for the visitors, the Uzbeks managed to find a small crack in the Wall of Etheridge, as Alexander Geynrikh set up Anzur Ismailov for a difficult header that flew just out of Etheridge’s reach and into the back of the net for the 1-0 advantage.

Now desperately searching for an equalizer, the Azkals tried hard to push the offense, but just couldn’t get past the Uzbek defensive line.

The best chance that the Azkals got was an outside boot tip from Patrick Reichelt that headed straight into Uzbek keeper Alexander Lobanov’s mitts.

While the Pinoys couldn’t mount anything on offense, their defense remained as relentless as ever, preventing a blowout. Etheridge was again saving, clearing, and deflecting the rest of the Uzbekistan chances.

After 90 minutes and change however, it was still the home team that prevailed, one-nil.

The Philippines remains at third place with seven points, and are hoping for Yemen victory against Bahrain to remain in position. Uzbekistan overtakes North Korea with 18 points.

The Azkals head back home in time for their final Group Stage match on Tuesday, March 29 when they host North Korea at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. 

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