PH Azkals vow to bounce back

WHEN the Philippines Azkals play the Uzbekistan White Wolves again in the future, they vowed it will not be a one-sided affair anymore.

Team manager Dan Palami said this after an experienced Uzbekistan side shocked the Azkals national men’s football team, 5-1, recently in their FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.

 “It’s a different level. But, the next time we play them, it’s not going to be as lopsided as it is right now,” said Palami.

Uzbekistan’s Igor Sergeev heads the ball during his team’s World Cup qualifying match against the Philippine Azkals. At left is Phil Younghusband of the Azkals, who bowed to the visitors, 1-5. AFP

Because of the loss, the Philippines fell into a share of second spot with Uzbekistan, with a 2-0-1 win-draw-loss record in Group H.

The Uzbeks are in contention for a slot in third round with North Korea, which is unbeaten after three games.

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan coach Samvel Babayan commended the Azkals, saying they are a good team composed of talented players.

“We won by 5-1. But I think the Philippines has a fantastic, well-organized team,” said Babayan.

The Azkals will next travel to Pyongyang against North Korea on Oct.  8.

 “We were there in the game. It’s just that if you give scoring chances, they will score on every opportunity you give them,” added Palami.

The Uzbeks’ first goal came from Odil Akhmedov, who sent in a low shot just under keeper Neil Etheridge early on, and the Philippines just couldn’t recover from there.

They had two more goals in the first half through Sardor Rashidov and Igor Sergeev to give their side a 3-0 advantage.

In the second half, the Azkals tried to make a goal.

But, another goal came the Uzbeks’ way when Sergeev headed in a corner in the 65th minute.

The Philippines took one back just five minutes later, after substitute Stephan Schrock lofted a free kick above the keeper and into the net.

The Filipinos then went on the offensive, but an errant ball at the back was picked up by Rashidov, who curled in past the keeper to ice the game for the Uzbeks, 5-1.

Coach Thomas Dooley earlier said beating the Uzbeks will be a tall order, considering that they are high up in the world rankings.

He was right.

 “From the first kick, we started on the wrong direction. After the first goal, the first minute, everything we tried to do was gone,” said Dooley.

On the other hand, Etheridge took responsibility for the lapses of the team. He vowed to stay mentally strong as he looked forward to their next games.

On the other hand, Azkals’ skipper Phil Younghusband is still confident that they can still qualify for the next round.

 “We still have games to play. We know that if we can hold these teams, keep them from scoring, then we’ll have a chance in the upcoming games,” Younghusband said.

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