THE Philippine Azkals started its quest to Abu Dhabi on a high note after breezing past a 10-man Nepal side, 4-1, in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers on Tuesday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Phil Younghusband more than made up for a saved penalty early by notching a brace in a span of three minutes to open the flood gates for the home side in a match that didn't lack any drama.
"My dad always taught me, ‘When you miss one, it's important to take the next one.’ I was happy to get another opportunity to get the next one, thanks to my teammates," said Younghusband
"We could have had more goals but the most important thing is the win," he added.
Tensions rose early when Bikram Lana used his hand to save what loomed like a clear Younghusband goal in the 12th minute of the match, resulting into a red card for the midfielder.
But Nepalese keeper Kiran Kumar Limbu guessed right, denying Younghusband of what could have been the opening goal.
Younghusband, however, would not be denied at his second attempt in the spot with a much stronger take on his penalty in the 21st minute.
The Azkals skipper then doubled his tally after converting off a nifty Mike Ott feed two minutes later.
Iain Ramsay then gave the 1,715-strong crowd in attendance more reasons to cheer after sending a direct attempt past the keeper on the left side of the box to give the Azkals a 3-0 lead.
Bishal Rai gave the Azkals a bit of scare as the Nepalese attacker caught the Philippine defense sleeping to pull a goal back in the 45th minute.
But that proved to be the last stand for the visiting side as forward Javier Patino wrapped things up in the 74th minute with a clinical finish.
"It was difficult in the beginning. We knew about that. Nepal prepared for three weeks in high atitude. We know that they can run for 90 minutes," said coach Thomas Dooley.
"You can see that after the goal we scored, we created more chances. I'm very happy with three points, I'm happy with how we created combinations," he added.
The win allowed the Azkals to momentarily move up on top of Group F with Tajiskistan and Yemen still yet to play as of writing time.
The Azkals will now brace for their away match on June 13 as they visit Tajikistan.