Strauss leads Azkals past gritty Maldives

By Drew Malihan

MANILA -- Bloodied and all, and with a bandage wrapped on his forehead, John-Patrick Strauss did not back down and did his all for the Azkals until the final whistle.

The 23-year-old Fil-German led the pack to a 2-1 victory over a physical Maldives side in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at the Maldives National Football Stadium in Male on Thursday.

Strauss sustained an injury in the 23rd minute after a collision with Akram Abdul Ghanee in an attempt to win the ball.

Akram was handed a yellow card, while a bloodied Strauss was escorted outside, prompting the Azkals to play with 10 men until halftime.

The Philippines saw an opportunity after a penalty was awarded due to a handball inside the box by a Maldivian defender.

Melaka United striker Patrick Reichelt took the penalty in the 32nd minute but was deflected by Maldivian keeper Mohamed Faisal.

Justin Baas of Dutch youth side Jong AZ challenged a potential icebreaker from the Maldives side in the 49th with the aid of veteran goalie Neil Etheridge.

It was until the 52nd minute when Strauss, now wearing a bandage, finds Iain Ramsay inside the box who converted the pass to a goal, 1-0 for the Azkals.

Strauss was once again involved in the 69th minute, controlling a header by Reichelt that hit the post before he hits it with his right foot, giving a 2-0 cushion for the Philippines.

Stephan Schrock found himself marked by three red shirts four minutes before added time, pinning him down in the process which the rest of the Azkals did not like.

Hassan Naiz scored a late consolation goal for the Maldives to trim the deficit to one before the final whistle was blown.

The Philippines called it a day with the second win of the campaign and seven points in total, while Maldives drops to a win and three losses.

The Azkals will face the Syrians on Tuesday at Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai due to security concerns in Syria.

Follow him on Twitter: @drewmalihan