Switch to three-man defense gives Azkals good chances up front but still fall short in friendly at Bahrain
Manny Ott got some good looks at goal at the National Stadium in Manama in Bahrain. AP

A NEW-LOOK Philippine men’s football team just fell short in a 2-1 loss to Bahrain in their friendly that capped of a weeklong training camp in the Gulf nation on early Tuesday at the National Stadium in Manama.

The Azkals fell into an early two-goal hole, but came up with a determined effort as they tried to climb out of it in the second half.

Faouzi Mubarak and Abdulla Yaser proved to be thorns in the side of the visitors with a goal each for the hosts.

Azkals midfielder Manny Ott provided a ray of hope as he broke through the defense of the formidable 104th-ranked squad with a strike in the second half to the delight of the Filipinos in the stands.

The Azkals, usually playing with four defenders, tried a new 3-4-3 formation in their first friendly of the year that kicked off preparations for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in June.

Azkals coach Thomas Dooley fielded a grizzled backline composed of 35-year-old Juani Guirado, 30-year-old Simone Rota, and touted Filipino-Spanish recruit Alvaro Silva, who was celebrating his 31st birthday on match day.

And the Filipino booters seemed to adapt well to the new system as Phil Younghusband, Mark Hartmann, and Patrick Reichelt conjured chances.

The hosts’ pedigree showed early with two conversions off set pieces — Mubarak with a low shot off a corner 29 minutes into the match, then Yaser with an impressive free kick that goalkeeper Roland Muller failed to save just a few minutes later.

“Quality of finishing spelling the difference in this game,” team manager Dan Palami tweeted during the match. “Otherwise, we’ve held our own and actually have had more chances.”

The Azkals were finally rewarded in the 61st minute when Ott recovered the ball from the midfield then fired low to find the back of the net.

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