MD6 - Group A: Syria 1-0 Philippines
Dubai: Syria made it five wins from five as they recorded a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Philippines on Tuesday to reinforce their position at the top of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers Group A standings.
Ward Al Salama’s first-half goal proved the difference at Dubai’s Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium as Syria, despite not always having things their own way against a spirited Philippines outfit, went on to ensure another three-point haul and to add yet more momentum to an already impressive campaign.
The result leaves Syria eight points clear of China PR in second and well on track to guarantee their progress, while their opponents remain third in the table with seven points from their five matches.
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After Philippines defender Alvaro Silva had picked up a second-minute yellow card, it was the visitors who threatened first, Angel Guirado forcing Ibrahim Almeh into a fine early save.
Syria responded shortly after through a fine Osama Omari effort, before they took the lead on 23 minutes. This time, the busy Omari burst down the right flank and delivered a pinpoint cross which Ward Al Salama swept home at the far post.
Syria midfielder Kamel Hamisha then blasted a shot from distance narrowly over the bar on the half-hour mark, while Omari forced Philippines goalkeeper Neil Etheridge into a fine sprawling save on 41 minutes.
As the first half drew to a close, and with Syria still dominating proceedings, leading marksman Omar Al Soma came within a whisker of adding to the seven goals he already has bagged, only for his firm drive to bounce agonisingly past Etheridge’s right-hand upright.
Desperate for a response, Philippines captain Stephan Schröck tried his luck from range six minutes after the restart, while an unmarked Guirado somehow failed to find the target when well-placed shortly after.
Syria replied with a delightful Al Soma free-kick which fizzed narrowly wide, before, and with the Philippines briefly in the ascendancy, Almeh gleefully gathered substitute Mark Hartmann’s strike from 12 yards.
By way of contrast to their sparkling first 45 minutes, Syria struggled to impose themselves as the match wore on, with late chances for Mahmoud Al Mawas and Al Soma their only genuine opportunities of the second period.
It mattered little though, as they duly held firm to record yet another vital success and keep alive their joint qualification bid.
Syria will now not be in Asian Qualifiers action again until Matchday Eight on March 31, while the Philippines will look to make amends for their latest defeat when they host Guam five days earlier.
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