Azkals defeat Turkmenistan 2-nil to advance to Challenge Cup semis

MANILA, Philippines- The Philippine Azkals only needed a draw against Turkmenistan to advance in the AFC Challenge Cup but the team showed that they are out to win each and every game, beating their opponents 2-nil at the National Stadium in Male, Maldives on Saturday, May 24.

Turkmenistan had 15 attempts on goal but Roland Muller kept a clean sheet by pulling saves one after another. Phil Younghusband scored his 35th international goal from a free kick in the 48th minute while Patrick Reichelt added another goal on the scoreboard in the 72nd minute.

The match started with long balls from both teams but it was the Azkals who missed most of those passes. It didn't take long before Turkmenistan made their presence felt as striker Suleyman Muhadov had his chance at goal at the 7th and 9th minute. 

A penalty was awarded to Turkmenistan in the 42nd minute but Muller kept the ball out of the with a block with his two hands. A lob pass from Martin Steuble was graciously tipped inside the net by Reichelt in the 72nd minute. All hopes came to close when Farhad Italmizov was sent off after two yellow cards at the mark of 78th minute, downsizing Turkmenistan to 10 men.

With the win, Azkals topped their group with 7 points followed by Afghanistan with 5 points. The team is set to play host country Maldives in the semi-finals on Tuesday, May 27. Afghanistan will play Palestine for the other finals berth.

JM Siasat is a sports journalist based in Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at jmsiasat@ymail.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmsiasat.