The Philippines squandered the chance to secure its first appearance in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup as it was held by the also-ran Nepal to a goalless draw in the third qualifying round on Tuesday at the ANFA Complex in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu.
The men’s national football was presented numerous scoring chances all throughout the match but was unable to crack the defense of the home side. It was the Azkals’ second encounter with the Gorkhalis for the last qualifying round of the top continental tournament.
It was the third straight stalemate for the Azkals though they remained unbeaten atop the Group F table with nine points built on two wins and three draws.
Fortunately for the Philippines, Yemen and Tajikistan, which are still in the running for the two slots to the 2019 edition of the top continental competition, also battled to a scoreless draw in the other group match.
The two squads stayed behind Thomas Dooley’s men with identical tallies of seven points.
But the Filipino booters are still in a must-win situation against the Tajik booters in their final assignment—a home match in March next year—in order to book a historic berth.
The ousted Gorkhalis, meanwhile, hiked their total to two points on two draws against three losses.
Carli De Murga, Mike Ott, Simone Rota, Phil Younghusband and Curt Dizon all attempted to give the Philippines the opener but Nepal goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu repeatedly denied the Filipinos as the first half ended scoreless.
The visitors sustained its offensive momentum after the restart while the home team started to pick up its attacking groove, resulting in an exchange of missed chances.
A scary moment occurred for the Azkals as Neil Etheridge almost gave an empty net strike to a chasing Nepalese forward but the Cardiff City FC goalkeeper was able to make a clearance.
Rota fired a screamer near the hour mark but was saved again while Younghusband muffed his shot off the ensuing rebound.
The Azkals got a huge chance in the 83rd when Nepal’s substitute goalkeeper Bikesh Kuthu gambled for a punch on Ramsay’s corner kick, leaving a wide-open goalmouth.
A Nepalese last line defender, however, cleared Sato’s header, and another header by Ott sailed wide to the left.
The Philippines though did not slow down its effort to score in the extension period.
With the added time running out, Etheridge sent a free kick it to his teammates in the opposite box for the Azkals’ last attempt.
De Murga was able to get in contact with the long ball but the far post denied his header, en route to the conclusion of a goalless match.