AN undermanned Philippine men’s football team saved its best for last against a Nepal squad that ended up more shorthanded than the Azkals, cruising to a 3-0 victory in their friendly early Saturday at the Al Ahli Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
The Azkals, with only 14 players available due to club commitments of some teammates from Ceres-La Salle, banked on a late flurry against a Nepalese side that went a man down in the second half to score the convincing win in neutral territory as they continue preparing for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
Strikers Phil Younghusband and Mark Hartmann fulfilled their roles by finding the back of the net in stoppage time, while Simon Greatwich provided the spark off the bench for the Filipino booters, who duplicated their victory of the same score against the Nepalese last April in the same venue.
It was a barren first half for the Azkals, who missed the services of Patrick Reichelt, Juani Guirado, Manny Ott, and Jeffrey Christiaens after Ceres, focusing on the United Football League Football Alliance Cup semifinals, refused to release them for national duty.
But that hardly mattered as Greatwich struck just four minutes after suiting up in the second half. The Loyola Meralco utility man came in with Alvaro Silva, the Filipino-Spanish defender who made his debut for the national team.
The 30-year-old Silva, who plays professionally for the Kuwaiti side Al-Qadsia SC team that recently captured the Asian Football Confederation Cup, shored up the backline against the Nepalese, who went down to 10 men after their player was sent off with a direct red card in the 64th minute.
Still, it took the Thomas Dooley-mentored Azkals almost the rest of the second half to take advantage as Younghusband scored his 39th international goal on a penalty in the 90th minute after Hartmann was fouled inside the box.
Then Hartmann, who nearly scored midway through the first half only for his shot to hit the crossbar, finally registered in the score sheet with a conversion off Jerry Lucena three minutes into injury time.