Phil Younghusband and the Azkals will to wait for March if they still wanted to go to Dubai.
By Kevin Estrada
QUEZON CITY—NOT. QUITE. THERE.
The Philippines were left frustrated by the stonewall defence of Nepal as their qualification for the AFC Asian Cup were put on ice in a goalless standoff Tuesday afternoon (evening Manila time) at the ANFA Complex in Lalitpur.
Ninety minutes of football in the Himalayan cold produced nothing but close shaves and missed opportunities as the visiting Azkals were put on ice by a solid defensive performance by the hosts as the former's qualifying bus hit a massive hump with their third straight draw in Group F.
Only playing for pride, Kiran Limbu played huge on goal for Koji Gyotoku, stopping a barrage of Azkals attacks for Nepal who just got their second point of the qualifiers.
Thomas Dooley will end the year with more questions rather than answers as the number one side in Southeast Asia saw their campaign to get to Abu Dhabi hanging by a thread as they will have to face a must-win home tiff against Tajikistan in Bacolod four months from now.
Knowing that a win will guarantee their place in the Asian Cup plane, the Azkals went to work right away, putting the pressure on the Solidarity Cup holders from the opening kick off on three-man backline that had Carli De Murga at the middle of it.
However, the first 45 minutes were disheartening as they could not find the breakthrough.
Nepal continued their defensive stance at the restart, with Limbu becoming a hero in so many instances,when he stopped a Kevin Ingreso shot from the outside.
Etheridge also had a share of scary moments, as he had to palm away Anjal Bista's header five minutes later.
The Azkals even had the final say in stoppage time, but substitute James Younghusband only saw his header hit the crossbar to complete the dismay as the qualifying hopes now go down the wire, with everything to play for in Bacolod when the Central Asians arrive in town.
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