Azkals victorious in return to international scene ,survives Kyrgyz scare to start Suzuki Cup preps

After six months, the Azkals are now back in action.

By Kevin Estrada

BISHKEK--The FIFA Rankings, after all, is just a number.

That is what the 134th-ranked Philippines proved early Wednesday (Philippine Time) after making a triumphant return to international action, defeating Kyrgyzstan, 2-1 in a friendly at Spartak Stadium.

The Azkals got a timely boost to their Suzuki Cup build-up by defeating the Central Asian side ranked 29 places higher than them, thanks to Kevin Ingreso and Misagh Bahadoran who scored on both halves to get their first win in a competitive match since they defeated North Korea at home in their final World Cup Qualifier more than five months ago,

Unterhaching marksman Vitalij Lux pulled one back at the hour mark but Neil Etheridge had the last say at him, saving the potential equalizer two minutes before full time as the Walsall netminder got more stops in the subsequent seven added minutes to preserve the scoreline.

In a backdrop of a decently sized crowd and temperatures of 19 degrees, the Azkals started the match on the backfoot, with the hosts getting the most of their chances from the wings, but Amani Aguinaldo and the backline held firm.

Lux gave Etheridge the scare early on midway into the first half but the latter punched away the shot from just outside the box,

And against the run of play, the Ceres midfielder got things going for the visitors in the 43rd minute, as he punctured the ball into the right corner off a Phil Younghusband feed that left Valery Kashuba stranded that made the difference as the Azkals went to their dressing room a goal ahead at the half.

The Global skipper doubled their edge seven minutes at the restart, as he scored again on a flying volley inside of the box off yet another Azkals counter.

Lux pulled one back eight minutes later, as he calmly grounded Etheridge on his spot with a clean low shot to the bottom corner that set a frantic final half-hour of action.

Controversy erupted before full time when referee Ravshan Irmatov pointed to the spot when Simon Greatwich tripped a Kyrgyz booter inside the box with two minutes left.

But Etheridge saved the Loyola dynamo's blushes as he palmed away Lux's penalty to keep the scoreline.

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