A fearless one-on-one attack from the wily Chieffy Caligdong in the 43rd minute and a powerful kick near the goal’s mouth by Phil
Younghusband, four minutes into injury time, capped the successful taming by the Philippine football team Azkals of the Mongolia Blue Wolves, 2-0, in the first leg of the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying playoff at the Panaad Park and Sports Stadium in Bacolod City last night.
Caligdong found the perfect opportunity to score as he skillfully eluded his defender and maneuvered the ball from the upper left flank to score the Azkal’s first goal.
While the estimated 20,000 crowd at the stadium cheered, Caligdong was embraced by his teammates and did his victory run near the Azkals’ bench.
Phil’s late goal during the injury time came off a pass from a scramble near the goal’s mouth and was a fitting ending for a night of several missed attempts from the Philippine side.
Finally nailing down a goal, Phil did a tumbling and knelt as his fellow Azkals surrounded him.
Used to playing the underdog in their previous international matches, it was a role reversal for the Azkals against Mongolia as they had complete control of the game, sparingly allowing the opponent to establish their play.
Playing aggressively, the national team registered more than 30 attempts with two conversions, courtesy of Caligdong, brothers Phil and James Younghusband and Ian Araneta.
On several occasions that Mongolia managed to bring down the ball to the opposite side, the Blue Wolves attempted to score five times but failed.
Making it more difficult for Mongolia was the disqualification at first half of midfield Altantulga Pagamsuren, who was issued a red card by Chinese referee Ming Hsun Yu for contesting a call during a penalty awarded to the Philippine side.
During the post-game press conference, Mongolia’s head coach Erdenebat Sandagdorj said having only 10 players in the pitch against a complete team made it very difficult for them.
While they came prepared for the match, he said they had a difficult time defending and executing a counter attack against the Azkals.
Hopefully, when the second leg of the qualifier shifted to Mongolia’s National Sports Stadium in Ulan Bator on March 15, coach Sandagdorj said the Blue Wolves will be able to overcome the two-goal deficit.
“MAN OF THE MATCH”
Coming from a country where the temperature falls below zero degree, the coach said humidity affected their game and the player were tired after traveling from Mongolia to Guanzhoul in China for their training, and finally to the Philippines for the first playoff match.
Meanwhile, Azkals’ coach Hans Michael Weiss admitted it was a difficult match but the team showed patience and determination.
He cited Caligdong for delivering a fantastic game and said the veteran player from Barotac, Iloilo was, for him, the “man of the match”.
The Azkals’ victorious home game against the Mongolia Blue Wolves was capped by a 20-minute fireworks that illuminated the skies of the Panaad stadium.*NAB