Azkals post first ever win over Laos to keep Challenge Cup campaign alive

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Men’s National Team put on a spirited performance as they blanked Laos, 2-0, in the continuation of the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup preliminaries, Thursday, May 22, at the Hithadoo Stadium in Maldives. 

Filipino-Italian defender Simone Rota scored his first international goal for the Azkals as he pounced on the rebound in the 41st minute that put the Philippines on top, 1-nil. 

The Philippines – who were missing the services of Neil Etheridge after he incurred a minor injury in their scoreless draw with Afghanistan – looked the better squad today as they pushed Laos to the edge several times, only coming short in the attacking third with Phil Younghusband struggling to get past the Laotian defense.

With pressure mounting on the Laos side, Patrick Reichelt then doubled the Azkals’ lead 63 minutes into the match as he headed in the corner to assure the Azkals of their first win in the tournament. 

The Azkals, however, could not equal Turkmenistan’s four-goal win over Laos as Younghusband missed an open shot from point blank and was called for offside in another attempt to pile up more goals for a better position on the table.

It is the first time that the Azkals have beaten Laos, with their last outing that ended in a 2-all draw getting scratched off as an official FIFA friendly after the Laotian officials fielded in non-FIFA accredited referees.

The win propels the Azkals to four points with a win and a draw as they wound up their elimination round against Turkmenistan on Saturday.

The Philippines momentarily occupies the top of Group B with the Turkmens gaining three points from their opening game win, Afghanistan taking a point in their draw with the Azkals and Laos with zero after dropping their first two matches. -