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Bacolod City: Thomas Dooley is hoping his Philippines team can take one step further when they face Yemen in the teams return 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying fixture in Doha next month and pick all three points against the West Asian side.

The Azkals had to fight back twice to draw with the visitors as goals from Phil and James Younghusband cancelled out efforts from Mudir Al Radaei and Abdulwasea Al Matari in Bacolod on Tuesday evening, but the Philippines remained on top of the standings as Group F reached the halfway point.

Both nations are aiming to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in their history.

“I’m happy with the 2-2 and being in first place in the group,” said Dooley, whose side have seven points from their first three games.

“We didn’t get three points but a point is still good. The players gave their all. 

“The players were tired (with the schedule of matches in the league). But we will take some positives from this game and hope to get the win next time in Doha. 

“The crowd helped us immensely. At least we didn’t lose at home.”

Yemen offered the Philippines a stern test despite suffering from the effects of a three-day journey from Sana’a to Bacolod and Abraham Mebratu’s team remain in second place in the group.

With the Philippines holding top spot, Yemen are second on five points while Tajikistan have three points and are third, with Nepal fourth on one point. 

“We’re satisfied with the result considering the difficult conditions of playing here,” said Mebratu. “Travelling here was tough and I have to give my players credit for fighting hard until the final whistle. 

“We would have loved to get three points and take top spot in the group, but the Philippines also showed why it is one of the top teams in the group. 

“We’re happy with our position now and we can be proud of the performance because the players have not played in this kind of weather.”

Nepal are rooted to the bottom after a 2-1 defeat in front of their own fans against Tajikistan left Koji Gyotoku’s AFC Solidarity Cup winners with just one point from their opening three matches.

“We got the opportunity to play in the Asian Cup 2019 Qualification because we won the AFC Solidarity Cup,” said Nepal’s Japanese coach. “We must focus on the team’s improvement rather than speaking about our chances of qualification.

“Football is a learning process. We are learning every day and it’s a continuous process. There might be a change in the players for the next match. We will try to rectify our mistakes in the next matches.”

Tajikistan had goals from Manuchekhr Dzhalilov and Dilshod Vasiev to thank for the win, with the goals coming in the 25th and 29th minutes before Bimal Gharti Magar claimed a consolation for the Nepalese 16 minutes into the second-half.

Photos: AFC