THE Philippine Azkals showed up when it mattered most after carving up Tajikistan, 4-3, in the 2019 Asian Cup Qualifiers in Dushanbe.
Javier Patino scored on opposite halves, Phil Younghusband also upped his scoring tally while Daisuke Sato fired in the insurance goal as the Azkals walked away from Tajikistan with all three points.
The victory also kept the Azkals on top of Group F with six points after Yemen and Nepal drew on their match earlier in the day.
Younghusband drew first blood as he curled in a well taken free kick on the 28th minute to set the tone for the Azkals.
This came in as a timely goal, particularly after a wonderful save from goalkeeper Patrick Deyto just minutes before as the hosts tried to up the pressure early on the Philippines.
As soon as the skipper opened the scoring, things started to open up for the Philippines as Mike Ott connected twice to Patino to create some separation from the hosts.
Ott found a slicing Patino down the middle in the 41st minute, sending a lovely through ball which the Fil-Spanish striker willingly sent to the back of the net.
It was almost an identical play between the two in the 48th minute with Ott once again rewarding Patino for a well-timed run.
The Azkals, however, had to survive a late uprising from the home team as Tajikistan scored twice in five minutes to cut the lead to one, courtesy of a Parvizion Omarboev penalty in the 57th minute and a Dilshod Vasiev goal in the 61st.
Sato, however, had other plans as he fired off a screamer from outside the box in the 79th minute to regain order for the Azkals.
Not even a late goal from Manucehr Dzahlilohv could spark a Tajikistan rally as the Philippines held off for the much needed victory.
The Azkals will now have months to prepare for the next match as it hosts Yemen at the Panaad Park and Stadium on September 5.