THE Philippine men’s football team finally produced a concrete, satisfying result under its new coach as it dumped Nepal, 3-0, in a friendly on early Saturday at the Al Arabi Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
After failing to register in the score sheet and the win column in their first two games under Thomas Dooley, the sleek-passing Azkals managed to do so against the Nepalese as they intensified their buildup for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup next month.
Curt Dizon, Martin Steuble, and Ruben Doctora Jr. all registered their breakthrough goal for the country, chipping in one apiece to the delight of the appreciative crowd.
Chances and goals appeared easier to create than it was for the football fans in the Philippines to keep their eyes open and stay up to finish the game in the wee hours of the morning as Dizon broke the Nepalese defense just 14 minutes into the game.
In his first appearance and start for the national team, Dizon wasted no time in repaying Dooley’s faith as the rookie Azkal escaped the offside trap, caught a lovely feed from fellow debutante Daisuke Sato, before beating the Nepalese goalkeeper with a composed finish that proved to be an ominous sign.
Steube then doubled the lead in the 32nd minute when the touted Filipino-Swiss midfielder headed home another well-calculated pass, this time a right-side cross from James Younghusband.
Doctora, a returning Azkal, finally joined the scoring party late in the game when he sneaked in a goal just before second half stoppage time.
“Thank you to our kababayans who trooped to the stadium to watch the Azkals game. Your presence inspired them to do better,” Azkals manager Dan Palami tweeted. “Of course, special thanks as well to those who watched the game on TV. I know it wasn’t easy.”
Continuing to experiment and show trust in his players, Dooley thrust defensive midfielder Jason de Jong as a secondary striker, put winger Patrick Reichelt at the forefront of the attack, and gave Sato, Dizon and Nick O’Donnell not just their first caps, but their first starts altogether.
The German-American mentor also made six substitutions, including leading scorer Phil Younghusband, who nursed an injury, but still conjured a handful of chances that just failed to find the mark.
The Azkals thus continued their mastery of Nepal, which also suffered a 0-4 loss to the Philippines in their first meeting three years ago in Manila.
The Filipino booters cap off their one-week training camp with a match against Qatari club Al-Ahli on Monday.