|A seesaw battle of epic proportions ended with the Azkals eking out a thriller over Tajikistan to remain on top of Group F. (file)|
By Kevin Estrada
MANILA--Call it crazy, madness or anything cardiac.
The Philippines won their second straight match and remained on top of group F of the Asian Cup Qualifiers, but not without a huge fightback by Tajikistan, escaping Dushanbe by the odd goal in seven late Tuesday evening (Wednesday morning Manila time).
With the 4-3 scoreline, the Azkals have emulated what the Malditas did to the home side two months ago, thus completing the double in both men's and women's ACQ.
And with Nepal holding Yemen into a goalless stalemate, Thomas Dooley's men are now two points clear at the top of their pile before their Sept. 5 tiff in Bacolod.
In a classic fashion, Phil Younghusband silenced the loud Dushanbe crowd to put the visiting side on the board first with a curling free kick past Abduaziz Makhkamov in the 27th minute. The skipper is just four goals away from a half-century of Azkals goals in which no one has ever reached before.
Javier Patiño made it 2-0 just four minutes before half time when he converted Mike Ott's pass in a clinical finish for his fifth goal for the country.
The Azkals tripled their lead three minutes after the restart when the Henan forward bagged his brace with an empty net strike after latching on the younger Ott's pass once again.
But Tajikistan fought back with two goals in a four-minute span gave an anemic Pamir Stadium a huge spark of life.
Tajik captain Parvizjon Umarboev scored from the spot in the 57th minute and four minutes later, substitute Dilshov Vosiev rocked the crowd after converting on a counter.
However, Daisuke Sato gave the Azkals three precious points by making it 4-2 in a blistering fashion by firing in from outside of the box that left Makhkamov no chance.
Late drama ensued in the final minute where Manuchekr Dzahilov pulled one back, but Tajikistan could not find another goal to avoid defeat for the second match running, dragging them further at the bottom with no points on the board to show for.
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