The Philippine Azkals displayed aggression in the second half but but eventually lost to Syria, 0-1, in the second round of the 2022 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday night at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Ward Al Salama scored the lone goal for the streaking Qasioun Eagles in the 23rd minute. The Azkals tried to stage a comeback in the closing half but faltered en route to their second loss.
The PH XI squandered the chance to surpass powerhouse China at No. 2 in the five-nation Group A as the joint qualifying tournament for the World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup go on a lengthy break before resuming in March next year.
“We fell asleep for a moment and we got punished with a goal. Syria was better in the first half but I felt like we played better during the second half,” said Azkals coach Scott Cooper.
The Philippines remained No. 3 with seven points built on two wins and a draw, still behind China with seven markers and a higher goal difference.
On the other hand, Syria is leading the group with 15 points on a perfect card in five matches.
Only the group winner and the runner-up will advance to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers, with the former also securing its ticket to the Asian Cup.
Captain-midfielder Stephan Shrock had a chance to tie the game in the second half but got denied by goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma.
Veteran forward Angel Guirado’s shot near the hour mark sailed wide while Mark Hartmann’s attempt off a Mike Ott pass was stopped by Ibrahim in the 73rd.
“We stretched them (Syria) and we had some chances,” said Cooper. “The chances we had were chances I would expect to result in a goal. At least three of them should be goals.”
The Azkals will face bottom-dweller Guam, China and Maldives for their final assignments in joint qualifiers next year.