Not even a one-hour rain delay, a soggy pitch, a red card and two power outages could slow down the Philippine Azkals.
In what proved to be a bizarre night of football, the Azkals poured it on, even as the rain did the same, all match long to annihilate hapless Cambodia, 8-0, and notch their first win in the AFC Challenge Cup at the rain-drenched Rizal Football Stadium.
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Veteran striker Phil Younghusband and new kid on the block Javier Patiño presided over the Azkals’ scoring juggernaut, with Younghusband submitting a hat trick by scoring the first three goals over a 10-minute span in the first half before adding a fourth late in the second, and Patiño scoring a brace with goals in the 45th and 56th minute.
Younghusband opened up the scoring in the 25th minute with a side volley from close range off a long ball from Carli De Murga from the right flank. Just five minutes later, he doubled the score with a brilliant curl from the top of the box that was just beyond the reach of Cambodian keeper Samreth Seiha. He completed his hat trick in the 34th minute with a rare header from a Paul Mulders long ball that bounced off the crossbar and past the goal line.
But the Azkals weren’t done yet in the first half. Following a brief break in play after a power outage shut off half of the stadium lights, they managed to squeeze in one more goal before the halftime whistle. Attacking from the left, talented midfielder Schrock rifled a nifty pass in between two Cambodian defenders that found Younghusband, who turned and delivered a cross that found Patiño for an easy tap-in and a fourth goal.
Schrock, who befuddled the Cambodian defense all night long with brilliant footwork and well-placed long balls from the left flank, joined the scoring parade with a long strike right in the first minute of the second half that glanced off the leg of a Cambodian defender and ricocheted into the net. Patiño then completed his brace by gathering a header from Angel Guirado inside the box, composing himself, and right-footing the ball past Seiha to put the Azkals up 6-0.
By this time, the unseasonal downpour had intensified, forcing match officials to suspend play in the 64th minute. After two 30-minute suspensions and yet another partial power outage, the match resumed 70 minutes later, but the field was so wet there were puddles everywhere, making passing difficult and forcing the Azkals to resort almost exclusively to long balls.
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Aiming to surpass Turkmenistan’s 7-0 scoreline against the same Cambodian team and gain an edge in goal differential, the Azkals pressed hard in search of two more goals but were frustrated each time. Patiño nearly had his hat trick in the 80th minute when his header from a cross by Dennis Cagara hit the cross bar, and just a few seconds later, Angel Guirado’s shot from the right was just inches wide.
To make matters worse, the Azkals were reduced to 10 men in teh 84th minute after Paul Mulders was sent off for kicking the ball at a Cambodian defender during a break in play.
The seventh goal finally came in the 87th minute after Seiha failed to clear a long cross by Schrock, leaving Younghusband with an easy tap-in for his fourth goal. Then in the 90th Carli De Murga sealed it with a close-range shot to make it 8-0.
Afterwards, Schrock said he was happy with the win. “We respect everybody and did not expect the high score. I'm always happy to come back here to represent the Philippines. The heart is the most important thing. I'm happy to play for the country of my mother.
But the Bundesliga veteran also said he was surprised with the condition of the pitch, which was in excellent shape the last time he played on it, when he scored a goal against Kuwait in the World Cup Qualifiers in July 2011. Coach Michael Weiss was just as disappointed, calling the pitch “an absolute embarrassment”.
The Azkals battle Turkmenistan on Tuesday at 7:30PM to determine top spot in their group. A draw would actually be enough for the Philippines since they have the edge in goal differential.
“We are in the driver’s seat,” Weiss noted. “A draw will allow us to advance. We want to show the same performance against Turkmenistan.”
The German coach, though, couldn’t hide his displeasure with Mulders’ actions that led to his red card and a subsequent suspension against Turkmenistan. “It was totally unnecessary,” he said.
SLIDESHOW OF THE MATCH: