Martin Steuble chases after China's Wu Lei. Lei scored a penalty against the Azkals in China's 2-0 win. PFF
By Gil Mar Moriones
MANILA—The Philippine Azkals did not get the return they wanted after being stalled for almost two years when they suffered a 0-2 loss against momentum-running China in the last window for the second round of the joint FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers at the Sharjah Stadium in the United Arab Emirates early Tuesday (Philippine Time).
Wu Lei from Espanyol converted an easy penalty at the expense of Azkals' goalkeeper Bernd Schipmann, who fouled a Chinese player inside the box before it, in the 56th minute to open the floodgate after a scoreless first half for both teams.
Wu Xinghan doubled the lead for China in the 65th minute after he was located by Zhang Xizhe's cross.
Debutants Jeff Tabinas and Oliver Bias showed some impressive defensive commitment despite the absence of main backline players Alvaro Silva, who was serving a suspension, and Daisuke Sato.
Mark Hartmann delivered the biggest scoring chances for the Azkals in the first half.
He had a goal attempt from short distance off a weak tap out from Yan Junling in the 20th minute only that a Chinese defender luckily kicked it to clear any possible goal conversion.
Hartmann again was able to knock to the defense of China in the 33rd minute, but Yan saved his flicking header.
The loss of the Azkals means another goodbye kiss to their bid to enter the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers.
However, they must maintain their hold of third place in Group A for them to proceed to the third round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The Azkals will go up against Guam this Friday and Maldives on June 15.
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