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    Azkals shake off rust to blank Maldives in friendly ahead of World Cup qualifiers

    Sep 3, 2015

    THE Philippine men’s football team dusted off the cobwebs as it blanked Maldives, 2-0, in their friendly on Thursday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

    Playing for the first time as a unit since June, the Azkals looked sluggish and hesitant in the early goings before turning fluid in the second half to score the shutout victory that served as a warm-up for their Fifa World Cup / Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup joint qualification match against Uzbekistan on Tuesday.

    “It’s not that kind of a game where you put everything in,” Philippine coach Thomas Dooley said. “The more important game is Uzbekistan.”

    “We wanted to give everybody a chance to play, get some confidence,” added the German-American mentor, who used up all his six substitutions in the match.

    Jerry Lucena struck for the Filipino booters, who were also gifted with an own goal by Maldives, which conceded despite playing defensive for most of the match.

    The visiting team scored an own goal four minutes into the second half, before Lucena, who wore the captain’s armband in the second half after Phil Younghusband came out at halftime, found the back of the net from close range six minutes later.

    Azkals subs OJ Porteria and Javier Patiño conjured late chances that were just denied.

    “If not for that own goal, it would’ve been a different result,” Maldives skipper Akram Abdul Gani said.

    Maldives bowed to the Philippines for the second straight time or since May 2014 when the Azkals survived the Maldivians, 3-2, in a thrilling win in extra time at the opponent’s turf in Male to book a ticket to the AFC Challenge Cup finals.

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