Philippines create history
Manila: The Philippines have progressed to their first ever AFC Asian Cup Finals after goals from Kevin Ingreso and Phil Younghusband secured a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Tajikistan in Group F of the qualifying campaign at Rizal Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, a result which also confirmed Yemen as the group's other qualifiers.
Needing a point to advance to the continental championship, the Philippines failed to convert a number of first-half chances before Akhtam Nazarov’s penalty opened the scoring for the visitors shortly after the hour.
Ingreso levelled with just over 15 minutes to play and Phil Younghusband netted the winner from the spot in the last minute as a place at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 was guaranteed.
The result also confirmed the Central Asians’ exit as their inferior head-to-head record with Yemen meant the West Asians have booked a place in the United Arab Emirates ahead of their game with Nepal later on Tuesday.
After a nervy start, the hosts soon settled into the match and Carli de Murga headed captain Younghusband’s corner from the left narrowly wide in the 11th minute, before Iain Ramsay’s dipping volley six minutes later forced a flying save from Tajikistan goalkeeper Abduaziz Mahkamov.
The Philippines created another opportunity on 25 minutes as Manny Ott slipped the ball wide to Ramsay who laid off to Daisuke Sato but his shot was superbly deflected wide by Davronjon Ergashev.
Simone Rota missed the best chance of the half seven minutes before the interval when the defender’s effort from 10 yards clipped the top of the bar on the way over after the visitors had failed to clear Ramsay’s corner from the right.
Phil Younghusband should have done better almost immediately after the restart after racing on to Misagh Bahadoran’s flick-on, only to drag his shot wide of the left post.
The home side were then made to pay for their missed opportunities in the 62nd minute when captain Nuriddin Davronov was upended in the box by Ingreso and Nazarov dispatched the ensuing penalty.
But Ingreso made amends 12 minutes later when he expertly headed home Ramsay’s cross from the left after more good work from Younghusband to send the home crowd into raptures.
And the hosts’ place in the UAE was confirmed when Nazarov fouled substitute Patrick Reichelt in the penalty area and Younghusband swept home the spot kick with his 50th goal for his country.
Tajikistan’s Fathullo Fathuloev and the hosts’ Dennis Villanueve were dismissed in stoppage time after an off-the-ball incident, but it did little to dampen the mood among the home support as the Azkals created history for their country.