By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Philippine men’s national football team got tripped in the opener of its campaign in the second round of joint qualification for the World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023, losing to Syria, 5-2, in a home game on Thursday at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City.
Had a promising start to the contest, the Azkals could not keep in step with the Syrians, who steadily found their mark as the match progressed to frustrate the home side and make their way to the Group A victory.
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.
“We had a good start but after that we relaxed a bit and they scored against us. This is a good team we faced but we also have a good coach and team and we just have to play our next games as if they are our last,” said Patino after their defeat.
The Azkals will have an opportunity to redeem themselves in an away match against Guam on Sept. 10.
The other team in Group A of the qualifiers is China.