The Philippines squandered the chance to secure its first appearance in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup as it failed to topple the gutsy stand by Nepal, settling for a goalless draw 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.
Despite the stalemate, the unbeaten Azkals remained atop the Group F table with nine points built on two wins and three draws, staying ahead of the Tajikistan and Yemen, which are still in the running for the two slots to the main competition slated to be hosted by United Arab Emirates in 2019.
The Filipino booters will have their last shot for a berth when they battle the Tajik booters in a home game on March next year
The also-ran Gorkhalis, meanwhile, hiked its total to two points on two draws against three losses.
After moving slow in the early goings, the Azkals suddenly stepped on the gas in the 20th minute, breaking into the Gorkhalis’ defense from then on.
Carli De Murga, Mike Ott, Simone Rota, Phil Younghusband and Curt Dizon all attempted to score for the Philippines but were either saved by Nepal goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu or went off the target as the first half ended scoreless.
The visitors sustained its offensive m 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 Philippines as Neil Etheridge almost gave an empty net strike to a chasing Nepalese forward but the Cardiff City FC goalkeeper was able to clear it.
Rota fired a screamer near the hour mark but was saved again while Younghusband muffed his shot off the 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 goal.
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 took a free kick and sent 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. JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA