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Azkals overcome opening day challenge by smashing four past Laos



Coming from behind, the Philippines takes the first win of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup with a 4-1 hammering of Laos at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi on Saturday afternoon.

Two goals in each half ensured a bright start to the Filipinos’ pursuit of taking home the coveted Suzuki Cup despite conceding an early goal against the run of play.

The two-time semifinalists fell a goal behind inside the game’s opening 22 minutes. Juani Guirado fouled Soukaphone before Laos’ Khampeng punished the Filipino-Spaniard’s clumsy challenge by scoring a goal off a free kick from 25 yards.

The Filipinos had a lot of chances that sandwiched the Laotians’ goal, mostly coming from striker Phil Younghusband. There was also an attempt cleared off the line by Laos defenders as their keeper Soundala fumbled what looked to be a soft cross.

Perseverance paid off for the Azkals who kept knocking on the door for an equaliser. In the 41st minute, Manny Ott won a corner that he himself took. His delivery found Simone Rota who calmly headed the pass into the onion bag. Four minutes after, Phil scored his 41st goal for the Philippines with a clever header that redirected Jerry Lucena’s cross at the strike of halftime. The Philippines, favorites coming into this match, went to the locker room with a narrow 2-1 lead caused by a quick turnaround.

Despite the massive difference in the score by full time, Laos was in the action for most of the second half. The deadly duo of Khampeng and Soukaphone produced three goalscoring chances that lacked the killer blow to level the match. On the other side, Mark Hartmann and Phil Younghusband also spilled opportunities to widen their lead.

Hartmann was replaced by Patrick Reichelt with 24 minutes left and the Fil-German winger rejuvenated the Philippine frontline. His presence made an impact 11 minutes after he came on when he scored a goal from a Phil Younghusband’s delicate through pass. The substitute doubled his tally in the 89th minute after meeting Phil’s cross from the left wing to guide the ball into the back of the net.

Indonesia will be the Azkals’ next foe in the tournament on Tuesday, 4PM (5PM Manila time) at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi. A win will put the Philippines on the brink of making its third straight semifinals appearance in the regional football tournament.

*Image is used with permission from the Official AFF Suzuki Cup website

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