Mike Rigoberto Ott delivered the crucial equalizer as the men’s national football team salvaged a 1-1 draw with Yemen in the third round of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup 2019 qualifiers on Tuesday night at the Saoud bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar.
Ott fired the equalizer late in the match as the Philippine Azkals settled for a stalemate with the Yemenis for the second straight time to stay unbeaten atop Group F with eight points.
With the result, the Filipino booters moved one win away from making their first appearance in the quadrennial competition.
Yemen remained just two markers behind the Philippines but it allowed Tajikistan, which posted a 3-0 beating of Nepal, to keep a close contest for the two slots to the main tournament.
Following a goalless first half, Yemen struck the opener in the 63rd minute as Tawfik Ali took advantage of a disarray during a corner kick before sending the ball past goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
With the Azkals looking to be heading to their first defeat, Ott came up with his endgame heroics.
The attacking midfielder controlled a nifty pass from Paul Mulders inside the penalty box then fired the equalizer in the 89th.
The Philippines next faces also-ran Nepal in a crucial match on November 14 at the Halchowk Stadium in Kathmandu.
JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA