The Philippine Azkals kicked off their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Asian Cup 2022 qualifiers with a 3-0 loss to defending champion Korea on Monday, October 25, at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.
Left back Lee Kyuhyuk notched the first goal of the match at the 52nd minute after completing a beautiful team play started by center back Lee Sangmin.
Sangmin found Kyuhyuk with an accurate long pass – the left back then passed it to Park Jeong-in, who found Go Jaehyeon alone in the left wing. His cross was met by Kyuhyuk in the middle of the box as he timed his run wonderfully for a clean header.
Jeong-in atoned for his miss earlier in the match as he headed in an exquisite cross from Seo Jin-su at the 89th minute to cap off an impressive performance for the Koreans.
The Philippines is in Group H with Korea, Singapore, and Timor-Leste. The four teams will play each other once and the top placer will advance to the main event in Uzbekistan in 2022.
Should the Azkals fail to finish the group on top, they will still have a chance to qualify as long as they are one of the four best runners-up.
The Koreans kept the ball for most of the first half as the Filipinos sat deep early on, but they defended well enough to prevent the defending champions from scoring in the first 45 minutes. Korea created multiple chances by whipping in crosses from both sides of the pitch and executing quick short passes near the penalty arc.
The Koreans’ best chance of the half came from a counterattack as they breezed past the Azkals’ right side of defense, leading to an easy goal for Choi Geonju, but the offside flag was immediately raised by the linesman.
Miguel Mendoza was substituted at the 33th minute for Oskari Kekkonen of the Azkals Development Team after the former received two heavy tackles in the past 10 minutes.
Korean substitute Oh Hyungyu opened the second half by heading in a shot on target, but Azkals keeper Quincy Kammeraad easily met the powerless header and secured the ball for his team.
Jeong-in, another substitute, almost claimed the first goal of the match after he was set up for a wide open goal at the 48th minute. He fired the shot way above the crossbar as the Koreans sliced open the Filipinos’ defense once again.
Azkals substitute Sebastian Beraque almost pulled one back before the Koreans found their third goal, but his heavy touch coupled with a swift reaction from rushing Korean goalkeeper Lee Gwangyeon denied the Philippines from getting into the score sheet.
The Azkals will look to bounce back from the heavy defeat as they take on Singapore on Thursday, October 28, 8 pm, at the same venue. – Rappler.com