Philippine Azkals pull off great fightback, stun North Korea in five-goal thriller
The Azkals celebrate the momentous victory. Jaime Campos

THE Philippine men’s football team refused to disappoint the home crowd as it stunned North Korea, 3-2, to finish its World Cup/Asian Cup second-round qualifying campaign on a high note on Tuesday night.

The Azkals squandered an early lead and saw themselves trailing in the second half, but stayed stout defensively before finally getting rewarded with two goals late in the second half to secure the impressive victory against a country ranked 94th in the world.

Iaian Ramsay came off the bench in the second half and scored the game-winner a minute before stoppage time off a nifty feed from Javier Patino.

“The words we have on our t-shirts: ‘We believe’ – that was the main thing,” Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said. “We just had to believe we can play football and beat teams like North Korea.”

The Philippines has now been assured of a berth in the third round of the Asian Cup qualifying after finishing the second round in third spot with 10 points in eight matches as Bahrain wound up fourth with nine points following a 1-0 loss to Uzbekistan in Tashkent.

Misagh Bahadoran, playing in his first match since serving a one-game suspension, heralded his return with a header off a rebound that increased his tournament total to a team-leading three goals and put the Azkals up two minutes before first-half stoppage time.

But the Koreans quickly equalized as So Kyong Jin scored off their own rebound as the Azkals failed to make a clearance in the last possession of the first half.

Despite suddenly finding themselves trailing after Korea found the back of the anew three minutes after intermission, the Azkals played without pressure and kept taking the fight to their higher-ranked foes.

The Filipino booters were finally rewarded as Manny Ott finished a team goal in the 84th minute to knot the count anew and set the stage for Ramsay’s heroics five minutes later.

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