Azkals tear Nepal to shreds with masterful win in ACQ opener

Phil Younghusband and Mike Ott tore Nepal apart in the first 22 minutes, as the Azkals open their Asian Cup qualifiers with a bang.
By Kevin Estrada

MANILA -- Showing their credentials, the Philippines played like they are the Group F favorites by smashing ten-man Nepal to shreds to open their final round of Asian Cup qualifying on Tuesday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Playing like a mean pack of wolves, Thomas Dooley's men displayed their might on both ends of the pitch with a 4-1 mauling over the Solidarity Cup holders, their first since November last year, taking the group F lead with Yemen and Tajikistan playing as of this writing.

It was the fourth straight win for the Azkals against the South Asian outfit, extending a new record for the longest streak against any other side that the Filipinos faced.

The home side flexed their muscles from the opening whistle by keeping the Nepali backline fits with their attacking flair that made them the number one team in Southeast Asia.

With all the aspects of the game favoring the Azkals, they almost made their advantage count just 12 minutes in when Bikram Lama was tossed to the showers for the blatant handling of Javier Patiño's header at the goalline, but Kiran Limbu saved their midfielder's blushes when he palmed away Phil Younghusband's penalty to the right.

But that was the charge the Azkals needed as nine minutes later, the skipper got his revenge on Limbu by smashing it to the bottom left corner to open the scoring after Mike Ott was tripped by Rabin Shrestha.

Ott then turned to a legitimate provider in the 23rd minute, picking out the country's leading goalscorer unmark in front of the empty net to register a brace, hiking his tally to 45 goals, five away for a milestone half-century.

With their height advantage made useful during set pieces, Iain Ramsay took advantage on a thin Nepali backline by tripling the Azkals' advantage in the 27th minute with an outstretched left-footed shot near the six-yard box for his fourth strike for the country.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable deficit, the ten men of the Himalayas did gave their expatriate support something to cheer on at the stroke of halftime, as substitute Bishal Rai pulling one back from a counter past Neil Etheridge to break a longstanding scoring drought against the home side.

The second half did not much have the intensity as the first 45, especially for the Azkals who preferred to play patient football.

Such patience paid off with seventeen minutes left on the clock, as the Henan marksman duly signed, sealed and delivered all three points with a calm right foot from inside the box that put the 1,750 supporters in a euphoria.

Patiño could have make it five at full time but it could not control the ball past Limbu after a solid run to beat his marker. Still, the Azkals are delighted to give the nation's capital a fitting sendoff before shifting to home qualifiers in Bacolod in September.

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