Azkals boost stock in Asian Cup Qualifiers
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - November 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines —The Philippines netted an important 2-1 victory on the road over Maldives to give its Top 2 bid in Group A of the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers a big boost Thursday at Male’s National Stadium.

Iain Ramsay and John Patrick Strauss struck in the second half to give the Azkals the cushion for their second win against a draw and a loss for seven points, which put them on level on points with second-running China.

The Chinese, whom the Filipino booters held to a 0-0 draw in Bacolod last month, got stuck at seven markers following a 1-2 defeat to unbeaten Syria (12 points) over in Dubai. China is ahead of the Philippines on goal difference, though, 11-1.

“It was a tough match but the team came through to claim three vital points in their campaign in the qualifiers,” Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta said.

The Azkals had the chance to draw first blood 33 minutes on as the referee called Ahmeed Numaan for a handball infraction. But Patrick Reichelt’s spot-kick was saved by Maldivian keeper Mohamed Faisel.

The higher-ranked visitors got another chance in the 50th but Ramsay failed to get his shot on target from inside the box. The Fil-Aussie, though, atoned for this by making good on his powerful left-footed effort off a Strauss delivery three minutes later.

Strauss, who played with bandaged head after getting a hard foul from Maldives skipper Akram Abdul Ghani earlier in the match, got on the scoring end off a rebound at the 69th and made it 2-nil.

Sub Hassan Naiz denied the Neil Etheridge-led Philippines a clean sheet with his consolation goal deep in stoppage time.

The Azkals hope to sustain their momentum as they face Syria in the return leg of their matchup on Nov. 19 in Dubai. The Syrians handed the Filipinos a 5-2 beating the first time around in Bacolod.

FIFA WORLD CUP AND AFC ASIAN CUP
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