Manila: The Philippines took pole position in Group E of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers with an emphatic 8-0 win over Cambodia which put the Azkals above Turkmenistan on goal difference at the top of the three-team table.
Cambodia, who had been beaten 7-0 by Turkmenistan in their qualifying opener on Friday, held out until the 26th minute when AFC Challenge Cup 2012 top scorer Phil Younghusband got the first of his four goals.
Younghusband then completed his hat-trick with goals in the 31st and 34th minutes before Javier Patino, who plays his club football in Thailand with AFC Champions League Group E side Buriram United, made it 4-0 on the stroke of half-time with his first international goal.
Former Germany youth international Stephan Schrock got his name on the scoresheet barely a minute into the second half and not long after Patino had got his second and the Philippines’ sixth Cambodia were given some respite from the deluge when a torrential downpour forced Sri Lankan referee Robesh Gamini to temporarily halt proceedings.
When play resumed an hour later the Azkals continued to dominate but in what was to be the only black cloud in an otherwise stellar night at the rain-soaked Rizal Memorial Stadium was the red card for Dutch-based defender Paul Mulders, who was dismissed with five minutes left to play for petulantly kicking the ball at a Cambodian player.
With a numerical disadvantage and very little time remaining, the Philippines looked in danger of not getting the extra goal that would see them at least match the target set by the Turkmen.
But with two minutes to go Cambodian keeper Samreth Seiha flapped at a Shrock cross allowing Younghusband to tap home at the far post before Carlos Martinez de Murga fired home the crucial eighth goal in stoppage-time after Samreth had initially saved a header from Shrock’s corner.
The Philippines now go into Tuesday’s decisive match against Turkmenistan knowing that a draw against the back-to-back AFC Challenge Cup runners-up will be enough to book their ticket to next year’s finals in the Maldives.
The top team in each of the five qualifying groups and the two best second-placed sides will join hosts Maldives in the AFC Challenge Cup 2014 finals, with Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Palestine having already booked their tickets after finishing top of qualifying groups A, B, C and D respectively.