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Manila: Philippines skipper Phil Younghusband has expressed his delight with the Azkals’ 4-1 home win over Nepal on Tuesday, a victory which started their AFC Asian Cup Qualifying campaign in fine style and snapped Thomas Dooley’s side's four-match winless run. 

Younghusband netted two goals in the space of two minutes in the first-half to set the tone for the home-side’s impressive victory in their Group F opener at Rizal Memorial Stadium. 

“I think the most important thing is we got the win,” said the Azkals skipper, who increased his tally to 45 goals for the Philippines. “We could have had more goals, whether it comes down to goal difference, we don’t know, but the most important thing is getting the win and making sure we play well.”

“I think in the first 30 minutes, our intensity, our urgency was very good,” he added. “Once it went 3-0, we took an extra touch here and there and slowed the play down. I think once we got the third goal, we got a bit complacent. 

“The fourth goal in the second half gave us more confidence, gave us a bit more security. As the coach said before the game, they’re quick and they gave us a scare in their counterattacks, made a few chances and another day, they could have scored, but the most important thing is we got the win.”

The Azkals entered the game on the back of a goalless draw against Malaysia in a friendly encounter last Wednesday and a disappointing 2016 AFF Championship campaign where they failed to make the semi-finals after draws with Indonesia and Singapore and a loss to Thailand at home. 

But motivated to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in history, the Azkals started brightly, Javier Patino winning a penalty in the 13th minute after his goal-bound header was blocked on the line by Bikram Lama’s hand. Lama was shown a red card, but Younghusband’s penalty was stopped by Nepal goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong.

After Mike Ott earned another penalty for the Azkals following a foul on Rabin Shrestha, Younghusband immediately stepped up to the spot, making no mistake this time to open the scoring for the home side.  

“My dad always told me that when you miss, you have to make the next one because if you miss again that will play in your mind until you finally score,” said Younghusband. 

“Once I got the second penalty, I felt more pressure, because if I missed that one, that’s two but I think it’s always important to get a goal when you do miss a penalty because then, you forget about the one you've missed. I was happy to have the chance thanks to my teammates.”

The win ensured the Philippines ended the first round of Group F matches in top spot ahead of Yemen on goal difference after the West Asian side fought back from going a goal down to defeat Tajikistan.

Younghusband and his teammates will travel to Dushanbe for their next qualifier, which will be played on June 13, in confident mood after picking up all three points.

“We wanted a good start,” he said. “We want to win our friendlies, it’s our preparation for the big tournaments. I think the most important thing is we got a good start, winning this game. That puts us in a very good position. Our goal is to make it to the Asian Cup and this is one step towards achieving it.”

Photo: PFF & AFP