Philippines Edge Maldives, 2-0

Philippines Edge Maldives, 2-0

The Philippines defeated Maldives, 2-0, in a FIFA International Friendly match last Thursday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The fixture was to help the team in preparations for their 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match against Uzbekistan next week.

Mohammed Samdhooh’s own goal in the 48th minute and Jerry Lucena’s header in the 55th minute lifted the Azkals to a second win against the South Asian nation.

Coach Thomas Dooley fielded a different set of players for the friendly. Patrick Reichelt, Kevin Ingreso, and Amani Aguinaldo started for the Azkals. Aguinaldo was a late inclusion to the side after Juani Guirado injured himself during the warm up.

The Azkals started the match positively. In the second minute, Daisuke Sato sent an inviting ball into the path of Misagh Bahadoran. The winger went for the volley but sent it straight to Maldivian keeper Mohamed Imran.

The Azkals continued to pile on the pressure in the 16th minute. Iain Ramsay’s cross for Bahadoran was cleared away by the Maldivian defense. Stephan Palla went for the follow up but sent his volley over.

Reichelt, who was deployed as a lone striker, came close four minutes before half-time. Stephan Schrock found the forward in the box, but he was unable to convert on the chance. The first half ended at 0-0.

Dooley made three changes at the half. Paul Mulders, Dennis Villanueva, and Kenshiro Daniels came in for Phil Younghusband, Daisuke Sato, and Misagh Bahadoran, effectively reshuffling the squad. Lucena wore the armband in the second half.

With only three minutes into the second half, the Philippines took the lead. An Azkals corner from the left side forced Samdhooh to go for a headed clearance. Unfortunately for the defender and the Maldives squad, the beautifully executed header went into the goal and hit the back of the net. The Azkals were left bemused but were relieved after the own goal.

Villanueva almost made it 2-0 just three minutes later. Ingreso sent an inviting cross for the midfielder but he sent his header wide.

Lucena doubled the lead in the 55th minute to net his second international goal. From a short corner, Schrock sent the ball into the path of Ingreso. The midfielder flicked the ball for the defender, who headed it in past Imran.

The Azkals could have gone 3-0 in the 76th minute. Paolo Bugas, who replaced Jerry Lucena in the 68th minute, went for a cross from the left side and was headed towards the near post by a Maldives defender.

Javier Patino made a late appearance in the match, coming on for Iain Ramsay. The striker almost immediately made his presence felt with a half-volley in the 81st minute that was denied by Imran. The returning OJ Porteria also had a crack on goal a minute but was also denied.

Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who played as skipper in the latter stages of the match, was rarely troubled throughout. Aguinaldo also played well in his first game back for the Azkals after an injury he sustained in their last World Cup Qualifying match.  — CAL

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