Azkals demolish Guam in AFC qualifiers

The Philippine Azkals bounced back big with a 3-0 ripping of Guam in the joint qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup on Friday, June 11 at the Sharjah Stadium in the United Arab Emirates.

Days after a tough loss to China, the Azkals roared back with an early goal from Angel Guirado before a Guam own goal and a Mark Hartmann free kick wrapped up the win.  

The Azkals, who earned their third win in the tournament, kept third place in Group A with 10 points and a +1 goal difference, boosting their chances of advancing to the third round of the qualifiers for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

Guam ended its bid without a victory in their eight group games against the Philippines, Syria, China, and Maldives.

Azkals forward Guirado slotted in the only goal of the first half at the 12th minute with a cool right-footed finish from close range. Center-back Jefferson Tabinas produced a quality through ball to find 19-year-old Oliver Bias, who broke the offside trap and fed Guirado with a wonderful pull-back.

Second-half substitute Mark Winhoffer immediately made his presence felt as he headed home Manny Ott’s free kick with his first touch of the match. His header, though, was eventually listed as an own goal as the ball hit Guam’s Marcus Lopez before bouncing into the net at the 59’ mark.

Another substitute had an immediate impact as Hartmann accurately curled in a superb free kick outside the box at the 88th minute. It looked like one of the three Azkals players in the box had a touch in the goal, but a closer look would see Hartmann’s kick came clean without any assistance from his teammates.

Four minutes after providing the assist for Guirado, Bias had a chance to claim a goal in the match as Patrick Reichelt whipped in a cross from the right wing, but Bias’ header just went wide. 

On the other side of the pitch, Guam had its first chance at the 18th minute as Lopez fired in a shot from a tight angle near the left post of the Azkals’ goal, but saw his effort go wide. 

Guam finally had a shot on target towards the end of the first half, but it rifled straight to Azkals goalkeeper Bernd Schipmann.

A minute later, Mike Ott hit the post with a right-footed shot after another beautiful pass from Bias. That proved to be the final kick of the first 45 minutes as the referee blew the whistle to signal the halftime. 

The Filipinos continued to dominate the possession in the second half as they remained hungry in getting as many goals as possible. Team captain Stephan Schrock showcased his dribbling ability as he skipped past defenders on the left wing and gave a decent cut-back for Bias, but the youngster’s shot missed the target once again at the 51’ mark.

Two minutes later, center-back Carlie de Murga suffered an injury after running and passing the ball to Bias. It was a no contact play as the defender most likely pulled a muscle and had to be subbed off. 

Both teams tried to push for goals, but the Azkals defense stood tall as they kept a deserving clean sheet in their penultimate match of the joint qualifiers.

The Azkals aim to end their World Cup qualification campaign on a high note as they take on Maldives on June 15, Tuesday at 10 pm Philippine time, at the same venue. – Rappler.com