Kathmandu: The Philippines fairy tale run in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup continued on Tuesday when they defeated a former champion for the second time, with their 2-1 victory over Tajikistan sending the Azkals through to the semi-finals. The two sides last met back in May, 2008 in the qualifying tournament for the second edition of the AFC Challenge Cup and, with home advantage, the Philippines held the eventual finalists to a goalless draw.
But on the neutral venue of Kathmandu’s Halchowk Stadium with a place in the semi-finals of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup at stake it was the South East Asians on top with a thoroughly deserved victory.
Defender Alexey Negmatov gave the Tajiks the lead in stoppage-time of a first-half dominated by the Philippines, who levelled the contest nine minutes after the interval when Phil Younghusband scored his third of the tournament.
And with ten minutes left to play Angel Guirado, who set up Younghusband’s equaliser, scored the goal the made Challenge Cup history for the Philippines.
Three minutes after Tajikistan kicked-off the Philippines crafted the first chance of the match when Ray Jonsson whipped a cross in from the left that narrowly missed the head of Phil Younghusband, who scored both goals in the Philippines’ 2-0 win over 2008 champions India, before being safely gathered by Tajik keeper Alisher Tuychiev.
Three minutes later it was the Tajiks turn to threaten with Dzhakongir Dzhalilov racing onto a long ball over the top of the Philippines defence only for keeper Neil Etherdidge to sprint sharply out of his area to clear the danger.
In the tenth minute it was Tuychiev’s turn to keep the scoreline blank after the Istikol keeper stood strong to block a power angled drive from Phil Younghusband after being set up by a well-placed pass from his older brother James.
Tajikistan defender Sohib Savankulov misjudged a speculative long ball towards the Tajik goal giving Phil Younghusband another opportunity but the ball didn’t run kindly for the former Chelsea reserve and the 32nd minute chance went begging.
The Philippines had the upper-hand and just as it was looking like the sides would go into the break level Fatkhulo Fatkhuloev’s stoppage-time corner was headed goalward by Negmatov and while the Azkals claimed skipper Emelio Caligdong had cleared the danger the assistant referee consulted match official Ryuji Sato to say the ball had crossed the line and the Tajiks went 1-0 up against the run of play.
The goal seemed to deflate the Philippines are started the second-half without the vigour of the opening period but things changed in the 54th minute when Angel Guirado robbed Davronjon Ergashev on the left channel, charged to the byline and fired the ball past Tuychiev and across the face of goal where Phil Younghusband was on hand to fire the ball into the empty net for his third of the tournament.
The equaliser lifted the Philippines but it was the Tajiks that next came close to scoring only for Dzhalilov to screw his close-range shot wide when well positioned to at least test Etheridge on the hour mark.
Seven minutes later the Philippines came agonizingly close to taking the lead when Phil Younghusband’s shot beat Tuychiev but not the inside of his right-hand post.
With ten minutes left to play the Philippines got the goal their pressure deserved with Guirado bravely heading home from close range, with the burly midfielder getting the better of Tuychiev and covering defender to send the Azkals through to a final four meeting with Turkmenistan.