The Philippine national men’s football team wrote a new chapter in Philippine football history Tuesday, crashing the semifinals of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Tajikistan.
The Azkals dictated the tempo of the match from the onset. Ray Jonsson, Chieffy Caligdong, and Phil Younghusband had good opportunities at goal early in the game but were unable to convert.
But despite dominating possession, disaster struck for the Azkals in first half injury time, conceding a controversial goal just before the whistle blew.
The Filipinos were undeterred, however, coming out furiously in the second half. Angel Guirado’s hustle and nifty passing led to an easy goal for star striker Younghusband at the 54th minute to tie the game.
Younghusband had another chance at goal at the 67th minute, but his shot hit the post.
Guirado, who is embroiled in a controversy with allegations of sexual harassment raised against him by former Philippine Olympic Committee president Cristy Ramos, once again came through for the Philippine team, heading in a goal at the 80th minute off a pass by Younghusband.
The Azkals defense remained solid for the rest of the game, giving up no opportunities to Tajikistan to equalize and keeping goalkeeper Neil Etheridge from being tested. Paul Mulders had a chance to put the icing on the cake at the 90th minute, but his shot at goal went wide.
With the win, the Azkals advance to the crossover semifinals in their maiden appearance in the tournament. The Azkals will play Friday in a knockout match against Turkmenistan, which topped the other group by virtue of a better goal differential against Palestine. North Korea, which defeated the Azkals in the opener last week, will take on Palestine in the other semifinal matchup.