All good things must come to an end.
Needing a win to stay alive in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, the Philippine Men’s National Football Team instead folded to Kyrgyzstan, 1-3, Wednesday evening at the Rashid Stadium in Dubai.
Lux Vitalij’s hat-trick condemned the Philippines to last place in Group C with zero points and a goal difference of negative six. Stephan Schrock got the Philippines’ only goal of the game and the tourney.
The Azkals started second-best to a determined and fluid Kyrgyzstan side. Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men invited pressure and committed sloppy mistakes in defense, which allowed their opponents to force wave after wave in attack.
The inevitable then occurred for the Philippines in the 24th minute. Vitalij completed a fine passage of play for his team by producing a top-class finish to score past a helpless Michael Falkesgaard.
Nothing really went well for the Azkals in the first half. Patrick Reichelt’s blocked attempt was the Filipinos’ best chance in the half, as Kyrgyzstan made Falkesgaard a busy man all throughout the 45 minutes. Truth be told, the Philippines was simply lucky to be a goal down into the halftime break.
The Azkals’ exit was sealed five minutes after the restart. Vitalij, again, was at the center of attention when he received the ball inside the Filipinos’ box, spun around the defense, and secured his brace soon after.
Vitalij then notched his hattrick in the 77th minute when he slotted the ball into an open net. The Filipinos could only lament their missed chances – especially Reichelt, who could only hit the side-netting near the end of the game.
However, there was a silver lining to everything, and it occurred in the 80th minute. Schrock unleashed a free kick that bounced into the Kyrgyzstan net to score the Philippines’ first goal in the competition. It may have been a consolation, but it was a golden moment in Philippine football all the same.
Philippines XI : Falkesgaard (GK), Schrock (C), Palla, Woodland, Silva, Sato, Reed, Ott, Patino, Reichelt, Ingreso.
Kyrgyzstan XI: Kutman (GK), Valerii (C), Tamirlan, Mustafa, Edgar, Mirlan, Bekzhan, Kutman, Kairat, Vitalij, Farkhat, Akhladin.