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Azkals vow better form after scary win

PH Azkals Kevin Ingreso (No. 14) celebrates with his teammates after scoring in the team’s 3-2 win over Fiji Thursday night. (Rio Deluvio)

PH Azkals Kevin Ingreso (No. 14) celebrates with his teammates after scoring in the team’s 3-2 win over Fiji Thursday night. (Rio Deluvio)

By JONAS TERRADO

Game Tuesday (Rizal Memorial Stadium)
7:30 p.m. – Philippines vs Tajikistan

The Philippine Azkals refused to treat the somewhat disappointing 3-2 victory over Fiji in Thursday’s international friendly match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium as a gauge heading into next week’s do-or-die qualifying match against Tajikistan for a spot in the prestigious 2019 Asian Cup.

The Azkals nearly squandered a 3-0 lead when Fiji struck twice off miscues by several substitutes late in the second half, causing concern among observers who had wanted a decisive result to gain the needed confidence for Tuesday’s Asian Cup qualifiers encounter with the visiting Tajikistan side at the same venue.

“Defensively, we didn’t do a good job and that’s what we have to change,” said Dooley. “That is why I think it’s a great training session for us because if we prepare like this against Tajikistan, it would not be enough.”

Dooley and the Azkals need at least a draw against Tajikistan to confirm its place in the Asian Cup for the first time. The national football squad leads Group F with 10 points, one clear of Tajikistan and thre off third-running Yemen.

The top two teams in the group advance to the prestigious continental tournament which will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates.

Phil Younghusband, whose opener off a penalty in the 29th minute was the 49th of his international career, said the late struggles in the match should not be a reflection of how things will play out next week, though he felt the team deserve a massive result.

“We showed good intensity and we passed the ball well, so I then 3-0 was a deserved scoreline after 70 minutes. But the two goals put a damper on the performance,” said Younghusband.

Azkals team manager Dan Palami, meanwhile, openly expressed a bit worry about the way things panned out in the friendly, though he understood Dooley’s reasoning of giving the substitutes the needed playing time.

“Certainly it’s a cause of concern. For that scoreline, for that result, especially in the last half,” said Palami. “But I can understand, you change five players in the second half, it will take a while, the momentum coming in from the first half was really cut.”

One of the subs actually accounted for the Azkals’ second goal which came from Pika Minegishi in the 52nd. Kevin Ingreso made it 3-0 nine minutes later with a volley from just outside of the box.

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