THE Philippine national men’s football team started their campaign in the 2018 World Cup Qualifier (WCQ) with a 2-1 win over Bahrain at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan on Thursday.
The “new” Azkals opened the match with more verve and aggressiveness than the visiting squad but was unable to score a goal in the first half as the two teams entered the break on a goal-less deadlock.
Come the second half, coach Thomas Dooley’s wards finally found the right offensive tempo at the 50th minute mark when Misagh Bahadoran, who substituted for the injured Stephan Schrock during the 23rd minute, capitalized on the well timed pass from Phil Younghusband to give the Azkals a 1-0 edge.
A few minutes later, returning Azkal Javier Patiño doubled the advantage of the team after a scramble inside the box, which gave the Filipino-Spanish forward a chance a kick the ricocheting ball into the back of the net.
With the team leading by two goals, Dooley sent two more substitutes, Simone Rota for Rob Gier and Juani Guirado for Stephan Palla, to fortify their defense and protect their advantage.
But as the match entered the stoppage period, Bahrain mid¬fielder Abdulwahab Al Malood found a gap in the back-line of the team to cut the deficit to just a solitary goal before the final whistle.
The Azkals fought the Bahrain squad in a friendly at the latter’s home stadium in March but lost 2-1 to the higher ranked country.
Despite conceding a careless goal in the final minute of added time, Dooley said the he is happy with the overall performance of his wards.
“I am very happy with the performance the team played today,” he added.
Dooley said he is particularly proud of the substitutes but stressed that their win was a collective team effort.
The Azkals are set to play against Yemen on June 16.