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Sports

Azkals all primed up for World Cup elims, crush Maldives

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Azkals prevailed over Maldives, 2-0, in an international friendly that enabled the hosts to pick up a victory and give their new members a feel of action ahead of next week’s Fifa World Cup qualifiers game against Uzbekistan.

An own goal by Maldives defender Mohamed Samdhooh at the 48th minute and a header by Jerry Lucena off a set piece 10 minutes later was enough to propel the Azkals to the victory before delighted fans at Rizal Memorial Stadium late Thursday night.

Coach Thomas Dooley shuffled the squad in the second half, resting top guns like skipper Phil Younghusband, Misagh Bahadoran and Daisuke Sato while giving youngsters Kevin Ingreso, OJ Porteria, Paolo Bugas, Kenshiro Daniels and Dennis Villanueva their chance to shine.

Dooley also tried some of his mainstays playing different positions, purportedly to confuse a scout from Uzbekistan who was at the grandstand.

“It’s not the kind of kind of game that you put everything in. The most important game is Uzbekistan. We want to give everybody a chance to play and gain some confidence, positive energy (prior to the Uzbekistan game),” said Dooley, who used all of his six substitutes in the friendly.

“Most important thing is we get a victory out of the game, nobody got injured and we gain some confidence,” he added.

The Azkals controlled the game but couldn’t buy a goal in the first 45 minutes.

They got lucky during a corner kick three minutes into the second half when Mahmood soared for a clearance but headed it into the net instead. Phl doubled the lead in the 58th, also off a corner with Stephan Schrock sending it to Ingreso, who in turn flicked it to Lucena, who nodded it home. It was the second international goal for the veteran defender, who fired goal No. 1 also against Maldives back in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup semis in Male.

It was good warm-up before the Azkals take on Uzbekistan Tuesday in a WCQ Group H match at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan.

“Five days before a big game, it’s important to give players playing time and allow players coming from abroad to get used to the playing conditions here in the Philippines. It was good for everyone to get a run out,” said Younghusband, who was sent back to the bench at the start of the second half.

“I think we got what we wanted from this friendly: Morale-boosting victory as well as the chance to look at most of the players and where they can actually fit in. So we’re happy with the result and the way we’re able to play the newbies,” said team manager Dan Palami.

ACIRC AZKALS CHALLENGE CUP COACH THOMAS DOOLEY DAN PALAMI FIFA WORLD CUP GAME GROUP H JERRY LUCENA MALDIVES UZBEKISTAN
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