By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
FOLLOWING its loss in its opener in the second round of joint qualification for World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 on Sept. 5, the Philippine men’s national football team seeks to steady its ship as it treks back to action in an away game today in Guam.
Happening at the GFA Training Center in Dededo at 1:30 p.m. (Manila time), the Azkals look to bounce back after yielding to Syria, 5-2, in their first game in the second round of the qualifiers last week in Bacolod City so as not to lose much ground in the race in Group A.
In the second round of qualification, the Philippines hopes to finish on top of the grouping, or at a least have one of the best four runner-up records among the eight groups, to advance to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers.
Also part of Group A are China and Maldives.
Against Syria, the Azkals had an auspicious start but could not keep in step with the Syrians, who steadily found their mark as the match progressed to frustrate the home side.
Javier Patino got things going for the Philippines, scoring early to make it 1-0 for the Azkals in the sixth minute.
But visiting Syria immediately got the goal back eight minutes later as Omar Al Soma headed a cross to level the count at 1-all.
It kept the pressure on the Philippines, eventually rewarded in the 30th minute when Khaleb Mobayed found the bottom of the net to help his team to the 2-1 advantage in the 30th minute.
The two teams went back and forth after but the score would not change by the halftime break.
At the start of the second half, the Azkals found themselves buried deeper when captain Firas Al-Khatib capitalized on a handball inside by Daisuke Sato, scoring on a penalty shot to push Syria to a 3-1 lead with just three minutes lapsing in the restart.
Things continued to get worse for the Philippines as Al Soma scored his second goal for the match in the 55th minute to make it a commanding 4-1 advantage for the visitors.
The Philippines tried to fashion out a comeback, changing personnel along the way, coming to within two points, 4-2, in the 83rd minute care of Mike Ott.
But Syria restored order and command with another goal two minutes later from Mahmoud Al Mawas to stretch its lead to three points anew, 5-2, before going on and completing the win.
The Azkals said they will try to make it a thorough attack from start to finish against Guam, a 1-0 loser to Maldives in its opener, to give them a better chance in the match.
“We have a good coach and team and we just have to play our next games as if they are our last,” said Mr. Patino after their defeat.
The Azkals are being coached by Goran Milosevic of Serbia, assisted by Hezirdan Ramadani and goalkeeping coach Milos Simic.