The name Wu Lei will haunt the Philippine Men’s National Football Team and Filipino football fans for years to come.
In need of a draw or victory to keep its Round of 16 qualification hopes alive, the Philippines instead suffered from the Chinese forward’s brilliance. The Azkals tasted a 0-3 defeat at the hands of China, Friday evening at the Mohamed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
The result marked the Azkals’ second defeat in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, and it leaves them bottom of Group C as of this writing. Given this outcome, the Filipinos must win their next assignment and hope they finish as one of the top four third-placed countries in the group stage to reach the knockouts.
Unlike their first match in this competition, the Filipinos showed more initiative going forward right from the opening whistle. Javier Patino had a golden opportunity to score the Philippines’ inaugural goal in the continental dance, but his attempt was blocked by a Chinese defender.
From that point on, though, China raised its intensity and bossed possession. Chinese midfielder Wu Xi squandered his header off a cross from teammate Hao Junmin, to the relief of Filipinos inside the stadium.
Nevertheless, a goal was coming from Marcello Lippi’s men, and it came right before the break. Wu Lei found space to shoot inside the Filipino box. He then unleashed an amazing strike to score past Philippines goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard in the 39th minute of the fixture.
The Chinese carried on with their momentum after the break. The Azkals struggled to threaten Yan Junling’s goal, and almost conceded another if not for Falkesgaard’s save against Wu Lei.
Nevertheless, Wu Lei was not to be denied another goal against the Filipinos. Hao Junmin launched a free kick into the Azkals box, and Wu Lei was in the right place to double China’s advantage in the 65th minute.
There was no miracle to come for the Filipinos, only more heartbreak at the final whistle. The Chinese effectively won the contest when Wu Lei secured his brace. They had more joy in the 80th minute, when substitute Yu Dabao put the icing on China’s cake with their third goal.
All dreams have to come to an end and they sometimes do as a nightmare.
The Philippines next face Kyrgyzstan at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai on January 16, 2019. Kickoff time is 9:30 PM Philippine time.
Philippines XI: Falkesgaard (GK), Silva, De Murga, Strauss, Woodland, Sato, Palla, Ingreso, Schrock (C), Reichelt, Patino.
China XI: Junling (GK), Ke, Linpeng, Xiaoting, Lei, Xuri, Zhi (C), Junmin, Xi, Lin, Yang.