Dubai: Philippines went down fighting to a 3-1 loss to Kyrgyzstan at Rashid Stadium in Dubai as the sides fought out who would finish third in Group C behind the already-qualified South Korea and China.
Both teams had lost their two matches before this clash and many of Dubai’s Filipino contingent were out in force to back their boys in white.
Despite a raucous and passionate support cheering them on, Sven Goran-Eriksson’s men found themselves on the back foot straight away and after 24 minutes, Vitalij Lux opened the scoring when he coolly finished with a side-footed shot into the top corner with goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard rooted to the spot.
Eriksson introduced veteran sibling duo Philip and James Younghusband in the hope of salvaging something from the match and the added pace had the Kyrgz resorting to some cynical challenges.
The Kyrgz seemed to be in a hurry to wrap up the three points and give themselves a chance of making it to the knockout round courtesy of being one of the best third-placed teams.
Wave after wave of attack bore down on the Philippines goal, but despite their best efforts they could not add to their tally before the break, thanks in no small part to a brilliant point-blank stop by Falkesgaard from that man Lux again, who really should have scored.
The second half began in a similar vein as Kyrgyzstan took the game to a struggling Philippines side and the inevitable second goal came after 51 minutes with a contender for goal of the competition so far.
The ball was played in to the feet of Lux with his back to goal, and the tall striker took a slight touch, spun and hammered into the far corner past Falkesgaard.
Just as the Azkals looked down and out, Manuel Ott fed Javier Patino, who unleashed a great effort that Kutman Kadyrbekov only just managed to stop at full stretch.
On the hour mark, Eriksson introduced veteran sibling duo Philip and James Younghusband in the hope of salvaging something from the match and the added pace to the Azkals’ side had the Kyrgz resorting to some cynical challenges to try to slow the game down.
Patino was inches away from connecting with a ball into the box from a free-kick after one such tackle as the Philippines began to push their bigger opponents deeper into a defensive line.
From the touchline, Eriksson could be seen applauding the more assertive attitude of his players and Kyrgyzstan had all 11 men back to hold off a wave of free-kicks and corners with 20 minutes remaining.
The problem with playing high up the field is you are left short at the back and that proved to be the Philippines’ undoing as Mirlan Murzaev broke clear on 77 minutes and fired a shot off the post, with Lux lurking to slot home and complete his hat-trick.
The Azkals’ followers had something to celebrate when they grabbed a consolation three minutes later in the most bizarre fashion.
A launched free-kick from Stephan Schrock missed everybody in the penalty area — including goalkeeper Kadyrbekov — and nestled in the bottom corner of the net.
It was almost 3-2 when Patino just failed to connect with a diving header off Philip Younghusband’s driven cross.
With time ticking away from the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan were content to run down the clock, knowing that third place was now assured and the they would send the Philippines home with three losses and zero points.