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War-torn Yemen crushes Azkals' World Cup hopes with shocking win

A late Yemen goal put the Azkals' FIFA World Cup hope in jeopardy. (file photo)
By Kevin Estrada

MANILA--It came at the worst time against the worst side in the group.

Yemen spoiled the Philippines’ homecoming with a shocking 1-0 win in a crucial World Cup Qualifier on Thursday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Substitute Ahmed Al-Sarori struck the telling blow to the host’s World Cup aspirations seven minutes from full time, and the visiting war-torn nation on the Arabian Gulf used stinging defense and the big hands of goalkeeper Mohammed Ayash for the whole match to render the offensive prowess of the Azkals useless.

The loss, coupled by Uzbekistan’s 3-1 win over North Korea in Tashkent would kiss the Azkals’ Russian hopes all but goodbye and will be relegated to the Asian Cup qualifiers, pending the result of Yemen and Uzbekistan five days later. With the loss, the Azkals are stuck at 3rd in Group H with seven points and now on its four-match winless run.

Thomas Dooley have been forced to make drastic changes to the side in which they lost Neil Etheridge and Phil Younghusband to injury and suspension, respectively. Stephan Schrock had been tasked to lead the team and Rolland Muller earned his first WCQ start.

The match began with the Azkals began dominating play early on but their chances went for naught and were also frustrated by the physical play of the visiting side, which almost came to a head when a fight almost broke out past the hour mark after defender Mudir Al-Radaei body-checked Javier Patino in front of the Yemen dugout as the first half ended in a goalless stalemate.

Second half was more like the same during the first 45 as the Azkals are in full attack mode while the Yemenis are filling the penalty box just to keep the nets staying put.

The Azkals had more corners and more shots but just could not convert.

With seven minutes to go, Al-Sarori silenced Rizal Memorial as he beat Kevin Ingreso and put the ball past Roland Muller.

That solitary strike was enough for Amin Al-Sunami’s side as they exit Rizal Memorial as the proverbial gatecrashers to the Azkals’ homecoming.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada