THE longest serving Azkal players, the Younghusband brothers, yet again saved the day for the Philippines.
Phil and James Younghusband, who have been with the Azkals for 12 years, scored both equalizing goals to salvage a point after forcing a 2-2 draw with Yemen in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifiers at the Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City last Tuesday night.
The new-look Azkals, which missed a lot of its key players, took control of the ball early in the match and connected a lot of short passes to split up Yemen’s defense. The Ott siblings Manny and Mike used their speed to lead the Azkals’ offense in the early going but they failed to put the Azkals up ahead in front of a lively hometown crowd.
In the 27th minute, defender Mudir Al-Radeai broke the lull to the shock of the hometown fans, scoring on a header from pointblank range off a corner kick that went past Azkals star goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
But three minutes later, skipper Phil Younghusband equalized with a beautifully struck free kick from around 25 yards away. It was Phil’s 47th career goal for the country.
The Azkals had a chance to take the lead before the halftime break but Yemeni goalie Mohammed Ali Ayashi deflected a looping corner kick by Manny.
The Azkals continued their aggressive attack and threatened to score early in the second half after an attempt by Iain Ramsay off a cross by Misagh Bahadoran was deflected by a defender.
The Azkals’ aggressive attack proved to be their achilles heel as they failed to run back on defense during a counter attack that was started by winger Ahmed Ak Sarori. He connected with Ahmed Nabil Hazaea, who in turn found Abdul Wasea Al-Matari all alone in the middle for the go-ahead goal in the 55th minute.
Following some failed scoring opportunities, James Younghusband, who came off the bench, hit the equalizer in the 71st minute, heading in the ball from a free kick by Manny. (EKA)