Asian football

Holtmann keys ‘lucky win’ as Azkals zero in on Asian Cup berth

Juro Morilla
Holtmann keys ‘lucky win’ as Azkals zero in on Asian Cup berth

CRUCIAL. Gerrit Holtmann and the Azkals look to wrap up their campaign with a win over Palestine.

AFC

Azkals debutant Gerrit Holtmann lifts the Philippine Azkals to keep their Asian Cup 2023 hopes alive

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals kept their dream of reaching the AFC Asian Cup 2023 very much alive.

Overcoming an airtight defense from Mongolia, the Philippines carved out a 1-0 victory as Bundesliga hotshot Gerrit Holtmann slotted in the winning goal at the 90+3’ minute of the match to keep the Philippines in the hunt for a spot in the 18th edition of Asia’s quadrennial tournament.

“We are happy of course that in the end we scored a goal and we won. So we’re still alive,” said Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley.

“It was a really tough match against Mongolia because they defended man-on-man, and now we have the lucky win in the end,” the debuting Holtmann, the Filipino-German who plays club football for VfL Bochum, said through an interpreter.

With the crucial win, the Azkals stayed in the hunt with 4 points and a +1 goal difference after two games.

They stand behind 100th-ranked Palestine, which still holds the top spot in Group B with 6 points and a +6 goal difference after a 5-0 romp over Yemen.

Only the top team in the group will claim a seat in the Asian Cup, while the second-placed team will have to rely on the results of the other group runners-up.

Thus, the final group match between the Philippines and Palestine on Tuesday, June 14, becomes a virtual fight for the top spot. The match tips off at 12:30 pm.

Dooley said the Azkals will have a different approach versus Palestine, seeing it as “a new game” and noting the Palestinians play a certain style.

But the 61-year-old mentor acknowledged that it won’t be an easy match.

“It will be another final for us, but we got 4 points and we want to qualify. So we have it in our hands now in the fight 90 minutes against Palestine, and we will see how that ends up,” he said. 

Dooley said although the Azkals didn’t break the deadlock until the final minute against Mongolia, he felt great with the team’s performance.

He noted the Azkals created lots of chances, but they just couldn’t score as the Mongolians protected their goal exceptionally well.

Dylan de Bruycker, the Azkals’ second-half substitute, forced a save from Mongolia goalkeeper Munkh-Erdene Enkhthaivan to earn the game’s last corner kick that led to Holtmann’s goal.

The Azkals debutant received the ball from the right corner and dribbled toward the box before unleashing a powerful left-footed shot that went past several defenders and the goalie to give the Philippines the win with just a few seconds remaining.

“We are looking forward to the final match now against Palestine,” said Holtmann. – Rappler.com