Kathmandu: Philippines kept up their resurgent display in the AFC Challenge Cup as they followed up their 2-0 win against India with a 2-1 triumph against Tajikistan in their last Group B fixture on Tuesday.
They eventually won the encounter against Tajikistan 2-1 at the Halchowk Stadium in Nepal to confirm their progression while Kemal Alispahic's men were eliminated. The Azkals came from being a goal down, thanks to a first-half stoppage time from Alexey Negmatov (45' +1'), with goals from Phil Younghusband (54') and Angel Guirado (80').
The match started off with the Azkals pulling all the strings, and it took them just three minutes to fashion the first chance of the match when Ray Jonsson's whipped cross from the left just evaded the head of the unmarked Phil Younghusband and was gathered by the goalie, Alisher Tuychiev.
Just three minutes later, it was time for the Persian Lions to launch an attack as Dzhakanogir Dzhalilov got at the end of a long ball, and they would have the lead if it was not for the alert Neil Etheridge in goal, who came out of his line to clear the danger.
In this to-and-fro encounter, it was now Tuychiev's turn to keep the match goalless as he expertly saved a fierce shot from Phil Younghusband after his older brother James had picked him out with a delightful pass.
It was Phil yet again who was in the thick of things when he got the better of defender Sohib Savankulov's error in judgement as he played the ball into the striker's path. But the bounce of the ball deceived him and Tuychiev's goal was spared again in the 32nd minute.
Just as when it looked as if in spite of the Azkal dominance, both teams would go in level, it was a rude shock for the Phillipines when in the first-half stoppage time, Fatkhulo Fatkhuloev's corner was headed towards goal by Negmatov. It appeared as if skipper Emelio Caligdong had prevented the ball from crossing the goalline completely, but the assistant referee awarded the Lions a goal, and it was a surprise lead for them just as the referee blew for the half.
It seemed that the goal had downed the morale of the Philippines for good, as they looked sluggish out of the blocks in the second half. However, all that changed as just nine minutes into the half, Guirado robbed Davronjon Ergashev down the left flank, before charging to the byline and playing a powerful ball across the face of the ball past a despairing Tuychiev. And Phil Younghusband was in the right place at the right time to slot the ball into the empty net and equalize for his team.
With this well-deserved goal, the Azkals stepped up a gear and again took control of the midfield. However, the next chance fell to the Tajiks as Dzhalilov shot just wide of goal even when he was not under any great pressure.
In the 61st minute, Phil could have got another when his shot beat the goalie, but could not beat the inside of the right post.
Finally, with ten minutes left, the Philippines got the winner which their performance merited, with Guirado turning goalscorer as he headed the ball into the Tajiks' net to send his team through to the semi-finals.