Philippine Azkals book first-ever spot in Asian Cup
By Erel Cabatbat
Phil Younghusband found the back of the net from the spot in stoppage time to give the Philippine Azkals a 2-1 come from behind win over Tajikistan at a jam packed Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Needing just a draw to advance from the group stage, the Azkals fell behind in the 64th minute after Akhtam Nazarov scored a penalty kick.
But instead of folding up, the Azkals laid everything on the pitch.
And they were rewarded with their grit and determination in the last 20 minutes of the game.
In an act of poetic justice, Kevin Ingreso made up for conceding a goal by heading home a cross from Iain Ramsay to tie the game in the 74th minute sending the RMS crowd into a frenzy.
Then it was Phil Younghusband’s turn to complete a historic night for Philippine football.
And the Azkals’ skipper rose to the occasion by netting his 50th international goal for the Philippines.
“I wasn’t thinking about the 50, I was thinking about getting in the game and winning the game. And when I went to the penalty I was thinking even if I don’t make it, it is still 1-1. But the shot went well the keeper went the wrong way,” Younghusband said after the game
Ingreso was named Man of the Match.
“When I made the mistake my teammates came up to me and said it was ok. We will get it back there is still plenty of time. And I’m so happy to make it up,” Ingreso said.
The win gave the Philippines the top spot in Group F with 12 points on three victories and three draws.
Moreover, the rousing win sealed a spot for the Philippines for the first time in the Asian Cup.
The Philippines will compete with 23 other nations in the biggest football event of the continent in the United Arab Emirates January next year.