MANILA, Philippines – Gerrit Holtmann delivered right on his debut as the Philippine Azkals recorded their first victory in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers after defeating Mongolia, 1-0, on Saturday, June 11, at the MFF Stadium in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
As the match went into added time, it seemed like the Azkals were facing another scoreless draw until the Bundesliga hotshot Holtmann fired a left-footed shot at the edge of the penalty box to finally unlock the Mongolia defense.
After the massive triumph over Group B host Mongolia, the Philippines temporarily overtake Palestine in the standings with 4 points and a +1 goal difference.
Palestine, which has 3 points and a game in hand, will battle Yemen later Saturday to complete the second match day fixtures in Group B.
Meanwhile, Mongolia stays at the bottom of the four-team group with 0 points and a -2 goal difference after two games.
The first half was completely dominated by the Azkals as they had 80% possession of the ball and did not allow Mongolia to attempt a shot or have a corner kick.
On the other hand, the Filipinos had 10 total attempts, but only 2 were on target. They also had 6 corner kicks and an 89% pass accuracy.
Despite controlling the ball most of the time and keeping the Mongolians quiet offensively, the Azkals were not able to produce a goal in the opening 45 minutes.
Bienvenido Marañon, who got a start after coming off the bench last game, was active in front and led the line well with Holtmann, the Azkals debutant, staying on the wing.
The Ott brothers, Mike and Manny, also had a lively half for the Azkals. The former was actually the first player to register a shot on target after launching a right-footed shot inside the first minute.
VfL Bochum winger Holtmann continued the Azkals’ offensive onslaught in the second half with a left-footed attempt outside the box, but it only hit the side netting to the delight of the home crowd.
Mongolia’s Baljinnyam Batbold gave the fans something to cheer for once again as he dribbled his way past several defenders in the 64th minute, but his long-distance shot did not bother Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge as it just sailed above the bar.
Holtmann, whose Filipino mother Rosemarie is “very keen” for him to finally play for the national team, had another chance two minutes later, but his left-footed shot was not on target once more.
At the 75-minute mark, Jose Porteria was tackled down by Bilguun Ganbold and the referee quickly signaled for a penalty kick. Patrick Reichelt stepped up for the Philippines, but his right-footed kick was easily saved by Mongolia goalie Munkh-Erdene Enkhthaivan.
The Azkals had another penalty shot at the 85th minute after youngster Sandro Reyes dropped inside the box, but it was denied this time by Chinese Taipei referee Chen Hsin Chuan.
The Philippines then earned one last corner in added time that eventually led to a stunning winner by Holtmann.
The Philippine Azkals will close out their campaign with a pivotal clash against world No. 100 Palestine on Tuesday, June 14, at 12:30 pm at the same venue.
A victory for the Filipinos in that last match will catapult them to the top of Group B for a guaranteed slot in the 18th edition of the prestigious quadrennial tournament in Asia. – Rappler.com