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Yemen perform heist to leave Philippines’ qualification hopes in tatters

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The Yemen National Team snatched a smash-and-grab victory at the Rizal Memorial Stadium at the expense of the Philippine National Men’s Football Team (Azkals). The result leaves the Azkals’ hopes of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup in shambles as they suffered their third loss in four games.

Azkals coach Thomas Dooley fielded the same 3-4-3 formation he has implemented in the past few games. Roland Muller started in goal due to Neil Etheridge’s injury. Amani Aguinaldo, Daisuke Sato, and Jerry Lucena played as the center-backs. The midfield consisted of Manny Ott and Stephan Schrock as central midfielders, while Stephan Palla and Martin Steuble functioned as wing-backs. Javier Patino returned as the main striker, supported by forwards Iain Ramsay and Patrick Reichelt.

Schrock captained the Azkals in place of the suspended Phil Younghusband. The first half was characterized by the Azkals’ lack of finesse in the final third of the pitch. Schrock shot his free kick wide, then Reichelt squandered the best opportunity in the half via a cross from Steuble. Steuble then had a free kick which he shot straight at the opposition goalkeeper.

Yemen easily repelled any Azkals attack in the first half. They had chances of their own when Muller was forced into a fingertip save, immediately followed by a wasted chance from a Yemeni player. A melee that broke out, resulting in a Yemeni player and Lucena getting yellow carded, was the last bit of action in the first half.

The Azkals displayed more urgency in attack at the start of the second half. Patino just shot over the bar from a corner and then Lucena forced a spectacular save from the Yemen keeper with his header via a cross from Ott. With the scores still at 0-0, Dooley brought on Kevin Ingreso and Misagh Bahadoran to replace Palla and Reichelt respectively. Bahadoran in particular improved the Azkals’ attack with his guile in the final third.

Nothing summed up the Azkals’ efforts more than when the Yemeni players cleared the ball off the line from what looked like a sure goal.

Yemen had a chance themselves after that with a header from a free kick which sailed over the bar. A counter-attack gave them the best opporunity of the game to score but a good recovery from the Azkals’ defenders prevented the Yemeni forward Al Sarori from clinching a goal.

It wasn’t until the 83rd minute that the Azkals’ defense was breached. Al Sarori made up for his earlier mistake to give Yemen a 0-1 lead.

The Azkals tried to get a goal quickly but hardly tested the Yemeni goalkeeper. It was a matter of time and ball management for Yemen, as Dooley sent on Paul Mulders for Ramsay to add creativity for the Azkals.

The official indicated five minutes of stoppage time but to no avail as Yemen held on to get three points. Uzbekistan away and North Korea at home are the next games for the Azkals, and only two wins will do if the Philippines want to salvage any hope in getting to at least the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

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Lorenzo's a frustrated author who knows a thing or two about Football and Basketball. Went all green from Ortigas to Taft. Supports Liverpool FC, FC Bayern Munich and the Alaska Aces

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