Daisuke Sato blasted the match-winner as the Philippine Azkals pulled off a nerve-racking 4-3 victory against Tajikistan in the Asia Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifiers early Wednesday (Manila time) at the Republican Central Stadium in Dushanbe.
Sato launched a shot from the left flank that breezed past goalkeeper Abduaziz Makhamov in the 79th minute as the men’s national football team booked its second win in as many games and strengthened its hold of the top spot in Group F with six points.
Aside from getting the maximum points in the away game, the Filipino booters erased the stigma of their dismal 1-8 downfall to China in a friendly last week in Guangzhao.
Following a harsh challenge on Javier Patiño near the penalty arc, Phil Younghusband curled a dazzling free kick over the wall to open up the scoring in the 28th.
Patiño made up for his absence last outing as he struck the second goal off a through ball from Mike Ott four minutes before the halftime.
The Henan Jianye striker completed a brace after Ott once again dished out a brilliant through ball to Patiño who dribbled past Makhamov and tapped home the ball for a commanding 3-0 lead in the 48th.
Not wanting to disappoint the home crowd, the Persian Lions roared back into the game as they went on a scoring outburst.
Parvizjon Umarbaev secured the penalty kick in the 57th following a tackle on Jahongir Aliev from Amani Aguinaldo.
Four minutes later, Dilshod Vasiev pounced on a poor pass from Junior Muñoz before joining forces with Manuchehr Dzhalilov to hit the second goal for Tajikistan.
But Iasi defender Sato, who was left unmarked on the left side, fired from way out and notched the goal that eventually spelled the difference for the Philippines.
Tajikistan inched close with their third goal courtesy of Dzhalilov one minute going into the tense four-minute injury time.
Alexander Huber nearly leveled the scoreline but his shot inside the box went wide to the right and the Filpinos managed to hang on to the win.
Once again, the Azkals proved their bite was sharper compared to the Persian Lions’ as they followed up their 2-1 nipping of the Tajiks back in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup.
Thomas Dooley and his men will troop back home in their next AFC Asian Cup match against Yemen on September 5 at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City.