MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals absorbed a heavy beating against Palestine, yielding a 4-0 decision in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers on Tuesday, June 14, at the MFF Stadium in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Despite only absorbing their first loss in the third round of the qualifying tournament, the Azkals’ chances of advancing to the prestigious continental tournament got slimmer as they remained at 4 points and a -3 goal difference.
The Azkals now have to await the Indonesia and Kuwait results in Group A, and Malaysia and Turkmenistan’s final rankings in Group E to see if they’d be one of the best five group runners-up that will advance to next year’s Asian Cup.
Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, and Turkmenistan all have 3 points with a game in hand, while the other group second-placers already have 6 points – a number that the Philippines won’t match.
Yemen’s Group B clash with host Mongolia later in the day should also be monitored by the Azkals as the former has a point and a -5 goal difference with a game in hand.
The Azkals had a tough time early as Palestine captain Musab Battat delivered a cross from the right wing and was brilliantly headed in by Saleh Chihadeh to give the team a 1-0 advantage 32 minutes into the match.
Tamer Seyam doubled Palestine’s lead at the 42’ mark by heading down Mahmoud Abuwarda’s cross from the left wing.
Abuwarda stole the ball from 34th minute substitute Dylan de Bruycker and immediately delivered a wonderful cross following a couple of dribbles toward the left side of the penalty box.
Mohammed Yamin joined in the score sheet at the 55th minute only after the referees decided to count his header and declare that the ball crossed the goal line.
Philippine goalkeeper Neil Etheridge initially saved it with two hands, but unfortunately, the ball bounced off his chest and then crossed the line.
Abuwarda claimed his brace at the 72’ mark as he drilled in a left-footed shot inside the box following a low cross from Samer Jondi from the left wing.
Palestine ends the qualifiers with a perfect record of three wins equalling to 9 points and a huge +10 goal difference.
The Philippines actually ended the first half with 55% ball possession to the 45% of Palestine, but the Azkals only had a total of three shot attempts compared to the nine that the Palestinians fired.
In the second half, Bundesliga hotshot Gerrit Holtmann had two chances to bring the Azkals to the scoresheet, but his shot and free kick failed to find the back of the net.
Holtmann attempted a powerful left-footed shot at the 46th minute, but it was parried away by Palestine goalie Rami Hamada for a corner kick.
At the 64’ mark, the VfL Bochum winger delivered a cross from a free kick, but intended recipient Simone Rota was not able to connect with the ball.
The Azkals continued to push for a goal toward the end of the match, but the Palestine defense stood tall to keep another clean sheet and deny the Philippines an outright ticket to the Asian Cup once again.
Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Lebanon have already qualified in next year’s Asian Cup during the previous qualifiers and will be joined by third round Group B winners Palestine.
The other 10 slots allotted for this qualifying round will be determined later Tuesday as the other teams have yet to complete their respective matches.
A total of 24 teams will compete in the 18th edition of the quadrennial tournament as Qatar will look to defend its title.
The Asian Cup 2023 will begin a year from now, but the venue is yet to be determined because China backed out from its hosting duties due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation in the country. – Rappler.com