The Philippine national men’s football team suffered a huge blow to its campaign after bowing to host Bahrain, 2-nil, in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers Tuesday (early Wednesday morning Philippine time) at the Bahrain National Stadium.
The Azkals failed to sustain the momentum of their rousing nil-nil draw against North Korea last Thursday as they missed the chance of bagging points that could have boosted their World Cup hopes.
Having traveled nine days to play away games in Pyongyang and Riffa, the Filipinos initially didn’t show signs of fatigue against Bahrain. The Azkals even almost got the first goal right at the opening minute when Phil Younghusband’s shot was only denied by the keeper.
But Bahrain remained deadly on the offensive end, trying to sneak past the Azkals backline that was playing too high. The hosts almost nailed a breakaway goal but Abdulla Yaser, who almost outran defenders, launched a poorly finished strike that went way off the post.
Younghusband got another chance right before the halftime break, able to launch a header which narrowly missed the goal.
It was a different story come the second half as Bahrain asserted its might against the Azkals. Floodgates opened when Ismail Abdullatif capped a nice three-man action with a goal at the 53rd minute.
The Azkals had the chance to quickly tie it but Younghusband’s short strike off a Martin Steuble cross was stifled.
Bahrain then padded its lead after Sayeed Adnan blasted a beautiful curl off a free kick from the left flank. That gave the hosts a 2-nil advantage at the 61st minute.
The weary Azkals then struggled for the rest of the match as they never threatened to make any comeback of sorts against Bahrain.
To add insult to injury, a frustrated Younghusband, who earlier went down after being tackled hard, was booked with a yellow card in the dying minutes. Now incurring two yellows, with the first one he got in a 5-1 loss to Uzbekistan last month, he will be forced to miss the Azkals’ next game against Yemen on November 12.
With the result, Bahrain gained some measure of revenge against the Azkals who won their first encounter, 2-1, last June in Bulacan.
The Azkals now have a 2-1-2 win-draw-loss card for seven points as they remained at third place in Group H. They still have games against Yemen, Uzbekistan and North Korea, aiming to get wins to keep their World Cup dream alive.
Bahrain improved its slate to 2-3-0 for six points but stayed at fourth seed.
Only the top team (currently North Korea) from the group as well as the four best runners-up from the field will automatically advance to the next round of the World Cup qualifying.