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Azkals succumb to vengeful Vietnamese in final group game



Outclassed, the Philippines took a rough 3-1 beating at the hands of Vietnam Friday night at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi. The Filipinos only managed to respond with one goal after the home team poured in three to wrest control of Group A.

Vietnam began the game relentlessly right from the get go. Le Cong Vinh sprinted forward and raced ahead of the Filipino defenders but was eventually booked for simulation after the referee deemed the Vietnamese forward to have committed a theatric slip in order to claim a penalty. Nonetheless, the hosts continued to pile the pressure on the rattled Azkals’ defense. The reward came as soon as the ninth minute. Thirty-five yards away from goal, Ngo Hoang Thinh found a clear sight of the target and launched a power-packed strike that ended up in the back of net, swerving against Patrick Deyto.

The Azkals did get their chances in the first half, but all of those were toothless. Phil Younghusband had a look from 30 yards but his shot did not bother Nguyen Manh Tran at all. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese looked more comfortable after leading by a goal as they opted to only produce chances via the counter attack. The Azkals tried to level the match before halftime but never really worried the disciplined Vietnam defense.

Thomas Dooley sent Paul Mulders on for Mark Hartmann as he tried to galvanize the offensive firepower of his side. However, it was Vietnam that got on the score sheet next. In the 51st minute, Vhu Minh Thuan got the best of Daisuke Sato with an impeccable first touch that allowed him to launch from a decent angle where he blasted his shot into the goal. It went from bad to worse in the 57th minute as Pham Thanh Luong had enough space to send a wonderfully hit shot with the outside of his left foot for Vietnam’s third of the night.

Yet just a minute after, Paul Mulders pulled one back for the Philippines. The Fil-Dutch midfielder slotted in Jerry Lucena’s cross from the right wing to breathe some life into the Philippine aspirations of topping the group. A good chance to reduce the gap to half came in the 74th minute. Manny Ott’s free kick created a stir inside the box but James Younghusband’s cross was smartly punched away by Tran. A couple of minutes afterwards, the Philippines had another golden chance to score a second. Paul Mulders’ flick fell to Martin Steuble whose attempt soared way over the bar.

Both teams tried to add another goal to their tallies. Vietnam longed to kill the Azkals’ chances while also flexing their muscles en route to a dominating finish. The Philippines, on the other hand, desperately attacked but were kept at bay courtesy of the sturdy defense of the 2008 champions.

With the loss, the Philippines finishes in second place behind Vietnam on the back of its 2-0-1 win-draw-loss record equivalent to six points. Hence, the Azkals will return to Manila and host the first leg of the semifinal on the 6th of December against the Group B winners who, barring any upset from Myanmar, are likely to be Thailand .

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