Group C: Kyrgyz Republic 3-1 Philippines
Dubai: A superb hat-trick from Vitalij Lux gave Kyrgyz Republic their first ever AFC Asian Cup win, and a place in the tournament's knockout stage as the Central Asians defeated the Philippines 3-1 at Rashid Stadium on Wednesday.
Lux scored once in the first half, and twice in the second to seal a historic, and crucial three points for Alexander Krestinin's side, who finished third in Group C behind Korea Republic and China PR.
The result, combined with Vietnam's 2-0 win over Yemen in Al Ain three hours later, means Kyrgyz Republic cannot be dislodged from their position as one of the four highest ranked third-place teams.
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While Kyrgyz Republic celebrated, the Azkals' third successive defeats brought their campaign to an end, although Stephan Shröck did make history by scoring their maiden AFC Asian Cup goal.
While the two sides began the match on the same number of points, Kyrgyz Republic immediately assumed the role of aggressors, keeping the Azkals pinned in their own half and creating a string of scoring chances.
Lux was on the end of two early near-misses, and it was the Germany-based forward who gave the Central Asians the lead their dominance had merited in the 24th minute.
The goal - a sweetly struck side foot effort that flew into the highest reaches of the top corner following Akhlidin Israilov's low, hard cross - was one to savour, and the first for Lux in national team colours since the Akshumkar beat Myanmar to seal qualification for the Finals.
With Edgar Bernhardt an imperious presence in the Kyrgyz Republic midfield, chances to continued to flow, and Philippines goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard's regular interventions were a crucial factor in the tally remaining at one.
Bernhardt-inspired moves saw Israilov fire narrowly over the crossbar, and Lux hit the upright, but despite a tally of 15 shots at goal to their opponents' two, Kyrgyz Republic were unable to add to their lead before the half-time whistle.
The Philippines emerged after the break with their Round of 16 hopes hanging by a thread, and they began to evaporate when Lux buried a wonderful second, turning on a dime and firing the ball into the top corner from Bekzhan Sagynbaev's pass in the 51st minute.
With time rapidly running out for an unlikely Philippines recovery, Javier Patino forced goalkeeper Kutman Kadyrbekov into an excellent low save, and head coach Sven-Göran Eriksson introduced Phil and James Younghusband into the fray.
Lux looked to have put the contest beyond doubt when he fired home his third, following up Mirlan Murzaev's woodwork-bound initial effort to finish from close range in the 77th minute, but Shröck gave his side a glimmer of hope when his speculative long-range free-kick crept past a hesitant Kadyrbekov three minutes later.
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