Philippines are through to the semi-finals of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup after finishing top of Group B with a 2-0 win over Turkmenistan at the Galolhu National Stadium.
Although they entered Saturday’s game needing only a draw to advance to the last four, the Azkals showed no signs of complacency as they claimed all three points courtesy of second-half goals from Phil Younghusband and Patrick Reichelt.
Nonetheless, they did have their fair share of scares but Turkmenistan were just unable to find a way past Roland Muller, who put in an inspired display in his second game deputising for the injured Neil Etheridge.
The Turkmen had their first real chance in the 20th minute when Ruslan Mingazow found space and unleashed a blistering dive towards goal, but Muller produced a brilliant save to tip it over.
A minute after the half-hour mark, Philippines had every right to be aggrieved after Stephan Schrock was brought down as he was about to race through on goal, only for Akmyrat Jumanazarow to be shown just a yellow.
The Azkals were further incensed two minutes before the break when Turkmenistan were awarded a penalty although there appeared to be little of a foul, but Muller produced a stunning stop to deny Aleksandr Boliyan from 12 yards.
And in the 49th minute, Philippines ensured Muller’s heroics were rewarded as they took the lead after Reichelt was hacked down outside the box; Younghusband stepping up and curling a sublime 25-yard effort into the bottom corner.
But despite taking the lead, Thomas Dooley’s side refused to rest on their laurels and went on to edge further ahead in the 72nd minute when Reichelt raced into the box to meet Martin Steuble’s excellent left-wing cross, and proceeded to send an acrobatic volley past Farhat Bazarow.
12 minutes from time, any hopes Turkmenistan had of making a comeback were effectively ended when substitute Farhad Italmazow was sent off for a second bookable offence, paving the way for Philippines to play out the remainder of the match.
In Group B’s other game, Afghanistan also booked their place in the semis as they finished second despite being held to a 0-0 draw by Laos.
Turkmenistan: Farhat Bazarow, Yagmymyrat Annmyradow, Akmyrat Jumanazarow, Mekan Saparow, Bahtiyar Hojaahmedow, Guwanc Abylow (Dovlet Bayramow 51′), Ruslan Mingazow, Umidjan Astanow, Suleyman Muhadow (Didar Durdyyew 69′), Ahmet Atayew (Farhad Italmazow 62′), Aleksandr Boliyan.
Philippines: Roland Muller, Simone Rota (Anton Del Rosario 71’), Rob Gier, Amani Aguinaldo, Daisuke Sato, Jason De Jong, Martin Steuble, Paul Mulders, Stephan Schrock (Jerry Lucena 63’), Ruben Doctora (Patrick Reichelt 30’), Phil Younghusband.