By Santino Honasan of ABS-CBN Sports
The Philippine Azkals got off to a strong start in their 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign, beating down Nepal, 4-1 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, Tuesday evening.
After trading opportunities in the early moments of the match, the Pinoy side got their first good chance at a goal after Nepal was called for a handball leading to a 19th minute penalty kick.
The Nepal side got a stroke of luck however, as keeper Kiran Umar Limbu managed to save Azkals skipper Phil Younghusband’s penalty attempt.
Kiran wasn’t as fortunate the second time around, as another penalty kick was given to the home team after Nepal was called for a foul inside the box. Phil drained the penalty in the 21st minute to give the Azkals a 1-0 advantage.
That started a first half surge for the Azkals, with Phil scoring again just two minutes later, followed by an Iain Ramsay conversion, pushing the Pinoy lead to 3-0 after 28 minutes.
Nepal wouldn’t allow a shutout however, as Bishal Rai managed to pull one back for the visiting side just before halftime.
Striker Javi Patiño put the finishing touches for the Azkals in the 73rd minute, adding one more goal for good measure, pushing the final tally to 4-1.
“Obviously I’m very happy that we got the three points, that’s what we wanted,” said Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley during the post match press conference. “I’m happy that we played the ball nicely, we had great combinations.”
“The most important thing is that we got the win,” added skipper Phil Younghusband.
The Azkals kick off their AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign with a win and three points as they move atop Group F at press time.
The Azkals’ next contest will be against Tajikistan this June 13th at the Pamir Stadium in Dushanbe.