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PHENOMENON IN PYONGYANG | Azkals draw North Korea in hostile WCQ tiff

PFF (file photo)
By Kevin Estrada

PYONGYANG, North Korea - Amidst the deafening roar of 55,000 toll-choreographed supporters, the Philippines notched a crucial away point when they held Group H leader North Korea in a scoreless draw in a pulsating joint World Cup-Asian Cup qualifier at the Kim Il-sung Stadium on Thursday.

A defensive display by the visiting Azkals frustrated the hosts for the entire match, matching their intensity by denying the tall and physical North Koreans long balls to latch on.

The Azkals even had to endure eight added minutes to eke out a famous result away after being smothered by Uzbekistan last month in Bulacan.

Thomas Dooley employed an unconventional 5-2-3 formation converted into 4-1-2-3 in the match, a change from the conventional 3-5-2 on matchday four.

The backline had Daisuke Sato and Martin Steuble on the wing, Jerry Lucena helping out Amani Aguinaldo and Luke Woodland in the center as the holding midfielder.

The only change in the frontline was Patrick Reichelt, who had replaced the injured Javier PatiƱo in the starting lineup.

The first 45 minutes saw frustrations for both sides.

A 13th-minute booking of Aguinaldo and a turned down penalty appeal from Pak Kwang-Ryong 21 minutes later were the only highlights of the half.

Even the halftime substitution of Misagh Bahadoran did little to make an impact on the Azkals’ attacking intentions.

With the draw, the Azkals temporarily move up to second in the Group H table with seven points with the hosts still leading the pack with ten points.