THE Philippine national men’s football team made it 2-of-2 in the ongoing 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup after beating Timor-Leste, 3-2, in an away match on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but not after given a scare by the host side.
Comfortably ahead, 3-0, in the first 68 minutes of the match, the Philippine Azkals took blows after and needed to dig deep and make adjustments to book the win and another full three points, to push them to 2-0 in the tournament and fortify their push to advance to the next round of the regional tournament.
The Azkals are currently at second place behind defending champion Thailand (2-0) in Group B and ahead of third-running Singapore (1-0-1).
Philippine captain Phil Younghusband got the scoring going for the Azkals in the 27th minute.
It was the 52nd international goal for Mr. Younghusband in his 101st cap for the team.
Martin Steuble followed it up with another goal six minutes later as he blasted a shot to make it 2-nil for the Philippines heading into the halftime break.
In the second half, Carli de Murga made it 3-0 for the Azkals in the 68th minute as he was left unmarked following a Kevin Ingreso free kick.
Just when everybody thought the Philippines was on its way to an easy win, Timor-Leste sprung up a surprise.
In a span of two minutes, from the 73rd to 75th minute, it would score back-to-back goals to make a game out of it.
Nataniel Reis first scored in the 73rd minute off a penalty and Joao Pedro added another two minutes later to make it just a one-point game.
But that was the closest Timor-Leste would come as the Azkals reestablished their footing to hold on and preserve the victory.
The Philippines now channels its focus on a key match with Thailand in the battle of top Group B teams on Nov. 21 at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City.
In Group A, Myanmar and Vietnam are currently the top two teams with identical 2-0 records.
Tournament format calls for the top two teams from each group at the end of the home-and-away classification round advancing to the crossover semifinals. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo