THE Philippine men’s football team flashed its depth but fell short against a quicker Kuwait side, surrendering a 1-2 decision in their friendly on early Wednesday morning at the opponent’s home turf in Kuwait City.
With numerous quality players returning to the national team, the Azkals commendably kept pace with their 2011 World Cup qualifier tormentors, but were just not rewarded with at least a draw. The Filipino booters accomplished the huge feat against another national squad ranked more than 30 spots ahead of them in Bahrain last Saturday.
Bader Al-Mutwa lived up to his reputation as Kuwait’s top scorer as he scored his 39th international goal in the 35th minute to draw first blood for his team, known as Al-Azraq or The Blue.
But Phil Younghusband, Al-Mutwa’s Azkals’ counterpart, made a rousing return to the national team as he scored the Azkals’ lone goal in a penalty kick conversion four minutes later.
Coming in as an early substitute for Marwin Angeles, the 25-year-old Younghusband showed why he is still a vital cog for the Azkals as his right-footed, left-swerving strike found the back of the net and equalized the game.
Neil Etheridge, also in his first game back in more than a month, was also stellar as the Azkals’ last line of defense, saving numerous missiles — including a penalty kick — which could have turned the game out of hand.
The Filipino-British goalkeeper, however, failed to save the second penalty kick awarded to the Al-Azraq in the second half as he guessed wrong on where Hamad Al-Enezi’s shot would go.
Juani Guirado, who started in the second straight game, joining Ray Jonsson, Rob Gier, and Dennis Cagara, made two mistakes that led to the penalty kicks for Kuwait.
The Azkals now return to the Philippines, facing Singapore next in a return friendly in Cebu on November 15.