THE Philippine men's football team put up a gallant stand in surrendering a close 1-0 decision to Uzbekistan in their World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers match on Thursday night in Tashkent.
Already depleted with the absence of a handful of key booters, the Azkals saw themselves go a man down early in the first half, but held the host Uzbeks scoreless for one half before giving up a goal at the hour mark.
The Filipino booters thus remained in third spot, behind their conquerors and North Korea, in danger of having to go through a playoff for a spot in the Asian Cup.
Still, it was a result the Azkals can be proud of as they proved to be a fortress almost the entire match despite seeing OJ Porteria get questionably sent off 10 minutes into the match after a hard tackle.
The Azkals finally gave up a header in the 60th minute as Javier Patiño and Patrick Reichelt conjured the Filipinos' best chances that just went wide.
Goal keeper Neil Etheridge shone brightest with plenty of saves between sticks.
Team manager Dan Palami later praised the Azkals for giving the host country a tough fight despite a depleted roster.
“Gallant effort by the AZKALS tonight! 85 min. with 10 mean against the top team in our group, away game. I think we represented the PHL well,” said Palami in his twitter account@dscpalami.
The Azkals cap off their second-round qualifiers campaign on Tuesday against North Korea at Rizal Memorial Stadium.