Azkals repulse Tajikistan, keep Group F lead
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - June 14, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - Redemption-seeking Philippine Azkals eked out a thrilling 4-3 victory over Tajikistan to retain the Group F lead in the Asian Cup Qualifiers Tuesday night at Republican Central Stadium in Dushanbe.

Bouncing back from a humbling tune-up loss to China, the Pinoy booters seized a 3-nil cushion then fended off the Persian Lions’ fightback to pick up the full three points in the game that mattered.

The huge away victory gave the Filipinos six points after two matches in the qualifiers, two points clear of Yemen (four), which settled for a scoreless draw with Nepal in the other group fixture over in Kathmandu.

Captain Phil Younghusband opened scoring while Javier Patino delivered a brace, and Daisuke Sato provided the insurance goal as the Azkals emerged victorious in the seven-goal thriller played in front of 15,000 hostile crowd.

It also washed away the bitter taste of that 1-8 setback to the Chinese a week before.

“This was a perfect response after last week’s loss in a friendly with China PR. The win also increased our chances for a place in the 2019 Asian Cup,” Philippine Football Federation general secretary Ed Gastanes said.

Younghusband scored his 46th international goal, a superb freekick that gave the visitors a 1-0 headstart at the 28th minute. Patino, who returned after missing the China friendly, followed this up with a strike in each half as Phl widened the gap to 3-0.

The Persian Lions pulled two back via Parvizjon Umarboev’s spot kick (57’) and Dishod Vosiev’s finish off a counter (61’) but Sato unleashed a 79th-minute screamer that restored a 4-2 lead for Phl. Tajikistan nailed its third goal, courtesy of Manuchakr Dzhaililov one minute before time but the Azkals held on til the final whistle to stay on top.

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