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Azkals' bid to make Asian Cup return in peril after losing big to Palestine

The Palestinians celebrate after a goal. AFC
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Gone were the times when the Philippine Azkals and Palestine were relatively matched as the latter showed how much it has improved from the last time they met.

Palestine once again proved to be the roadblock for the Azkals to enter the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers outright after a 4-0 drubbing on Tuesday at the MFF Training Center in Ulaanbaatar.

A far cry from what happened in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup Final, where Palestine escaped with a 1-0 win to qualify for the Asian Cup, Palestine, now ranked 100th in the world, basically crushed the Azkals, currently 133rd, and possibly their bid for back-to-back appearances in the Asian Cup.

Despite not having the better possession game, Palestine banked on a more solid attack, leading to header goals from Saleh Chihadeh in the 32nd minute and Tamer Seyam in the 42nd minute.

A bit of controversy happened in Palestine's third goal in the 55th minute when Neil Etheridge initially got a touch of Mohammed Yamin's header attempt but fumbled the ball a bit before securing the save.

Referee Mooud Bonyadifard ruled that the ball was already inside the goal line before Etheridge finally saved Yamin's header, giving Yamin the goal.

Mahmoud Abuwarda sealed Palestine's win with a 73rd-minute goal.

With the win, Palestine swept Group B to clinch an Asian Cup berth in style.

The Azkals, on the other hand, will now await the results in the other matches to find out if they will qualify too as one of the five best second placers.

However, they could be eliminated as soon as by early Tuesday night if Yemen beats Mongolia by at least a two-goal lead in the final Group B match.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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