Azkals fall to defending champs North Korea

Natashya Gutierrez
North Korea defeats Azkals 2-0 in their first game at the AFC Challenge Cup

AZKALS IMPROVEMENT. The Azkals' draw with the tough Malaysian team is a sign of huge improvement on their part. February 29, 2012. Emil Sarmiento.

MANILA, Philippines – Defending champions North Korea bested the men’s Philippine football team 2-0 in their first game at the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Pak Nam Chol scored off a header from a corner kick on the 58th minute to put the North Koreans up 1-0. It was followed up by a second goal on the 70th minute courtesy of Jang Kuk Chol, who shot the ball straight to the goal after Etheridge fumbled with a save.

The precision passing of a quick and talented North Korean team forced the Azkals to play defensively for most of the game.

The Azkals showed much heart throughout the match especially in the first half, as they defended the goal fiercely in the first 45 minutes of the game and in the added 5 minutes of injury time.

Goalkeeper Niel Etheridge proved he was the man of the match after deflecting numerous goals from a North Korean team that was attacking mercilessly, including a sensational save on the 17th minute. Etheridge knocked out a penalty kick made by Korea after a foul by Jason Sabio.

Sabio made up for the close call however, deflecting a wide-open goal on the 24th minute.

There were several close attempts by the Philippines as well in the first half from Angel Guirado and Phil Younghusband, but the Korean defense warded off both attacks.

Another Phil Younghusband header on the 83rd minute was the Philippines’ closest shot at goal in the second half, but the attempt was saved by the Korean goalie.

North Korea is ranked 111 in the world, while the Philippines is ranked 156th. The Azkals will next face India on Sunday, March 11. More to follow. – Rappler.com

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