Azkals see off Maldives to march into Challenge Cup final

Philippines are through to the final of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup after claiming a 3-2 extra-time win over hosts Maldives in Tuesday’s semi-final clash at the Galolhu National Stadium.

Having taken the lead through Phil Younghusband’s 19th-minute opener, the Azkals were pegged back when Mohamed Umair equalised three minutes after the half-hour mark but reclaimed the lead thanks to Jerry Lucena’s close-range finish two minutes later.

However, the Maldivians hit back once more in the 66th minute through an Assadhulla Abdulla strike to force extra-time, but it was Philippines who went on to claim the victory after Chris Greatwich popped up with another important goal to win it for his side.

Thomas Dooley’s charges are now just one game away from booking their place at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup; with Palestine standing in their way after an Ashraf Nu’man doubled handed them a 2-0 win over Afghanistan in Tuesday’s other last-four clash.

Given the magnitude of the prize at stake, it was understandable that both Philippines and Maldives started the game adopting a cautious approach.

Yet as the half wore on, the match also began to open up and it was the Azkals who drew first blood in the 19th minute when Younghusband did well to bring down a high ball while holding off the challenge of Ibrahim Fazeel, before firing away a shot that was too hot for Mohamed Imran to keep out.

Stunned at falling behind, the Red Snappers sought to muster an immediate response and looked set to do just that in the 33rd minute when Ali Ashfaq broke into the box and was about to pull the trigger, only for Daisuke Sato to halt his progress with a fantastic last-ditch tackle.

But three minutes later, the scores were level after the a lapse in concentration from the visitors’ defence allowed Ali Fasir to flick a pass through to Umair, who ran onto it and sent a clever lob over Roland Muller and into the back of the net.

Nonetheless, the celebrations from the home crowd had barely died down when Philippines reclaimed the lead in the 38th minute after Sato burst down the left and drilled a cross into the box, where Lucena reacted well to nip in ahead of Amdhan Ali before blasting his shot past Imran from close range.

By now, the Azkals were aware that they were a mere 45 minutes away from moving one step closer to next year’s Asian Cup but six minutes after the restart, their opponents were presented with a golden opportunity to equalise when they were awarded a penalty after Ashfaq fell over inside the box as he attempted to force his way past Sato and Amani Aguinaldo.

Yet, for the second time in two games, Muller proved to be unbeatable from 12 yards as he produced an excellent save down low to keep out Fazeel’s spot-kick.

Still, there was little he could do to prevent the Maldivians from making it 2-2 six minutes after the hour mark after a corner whipped towards the near post by Umair was met by substitute Assadhulla, whose deft touch was deflected by Aguinaldo past Muller.

With time fast running out, both sides looked to summon one final push to claim the winner but neither was willing to budge.

Maldives looked destined to score four minutes from time after Ashfaq had carved apart the opposition defence with an unstoppable run but Rob Gier came to his side’s rescue with a crucial block, before Younghusband had a shot cleared off the line by Rilwan after racing onto Patrick Reichelt’s through-ball and rounding Imran in injury-time.

And in the final minute, Ashfaq had another chance to emerge as the hero for the home side when he found space inside the box, but his curling effort on his trusted left foot drew a terrific save from Muller before it could find the bottom corner.

In the end, with neither side able to find the winner in the 90 minutes, extra-time beckoned and Philippines were unlucky not to edge ahead again in the 103rd minute when Younghusband did well to bring down a long ball from Simone Rota before firing a shot away on the turn that forced Imran into a flying stop.

However, a minute later, the pivotal moment finally arrived as Younghusband’s right-wing cross fell to Reichelt and although he failed to connect cleanly with his shot, Greatwich – scorer of two crucial goals at the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup that saw the Azkals make the semi-finals for the first time in their history – was on hand to help the ball over the line from a yard out and win it for his side.

Philippines: Roland Muller, Simone Rota, Rob Gier, Amani Aguinaldo, Daisuke Sato, Jerry Lucena (Chris Greatwich 46’), Jason De Jong, Martin Steuble (Simon Greatwich 109’), Paul Mulders (Stephan Schrock 68’), Patrick Reichelt, Phil Younghusband.

Maldives: Mohamed Imran, Rilwan Waheed, Shafiu Ahmed (Mohamed Shifan 92’), Amdhan Ali, Mohamed Rasheed, Ibrahim Fazeel (Assadhulla Abdulla 62’), Mohamed Arif, Ashad Ali (Akram Abdul Ghanee 46’), Mohamed Umair, Ali Fasir, Ali Ashfaq.

Philippines down Turkmen to make Challenge Cup semis

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.

Myanmar out of Challenge Cup after Krygyzstan defeat

Myanmar were eliminated from the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup on Friday after losing 1-0 to Krygyzstan in their final Group A game at the Addu Football Stadium.

The only goal of the game came in the 18th minute when the Myanmar defence allowed a long clearance from Pavel Matiash to bounce; Vladimir Verevkin pouncing on the loose ball before firing a shot past Thiha Sithu.

The defeat meant that the White Angels finished bottom of the group, although their opponents also failed to qualify for the semi-finals as they ended the campaign third on the table after Palestine and Maldives played out a 0-0 draw at the Galolhu National Stadium.

The Palestinians progressed to the top four and will now meet the runners-up in Group B, while hosts Maldives will play the runners-up.

Reichelt, Rota on target as Philippines see off Laos

Philippines claimed their first win at the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup after beating Group B opponents Laos 2-0 at the Addu Football Stadium on Thursday.

Having been held to a 0-0 draw by Afghanistan in their campaign opener, the Azkals entered the game determined to get off the mark and duly opened the scoring four minutes before halftime; Simone Rota lashing the ball into the top corner after Stephan Schrock’s attempted cross had been cleared into his path.

And in the 64th minute, they went on to wrap up the three points after Patrick Reichelt met Phil Younghusband’s corner with a precise header beyond the despairing dive of Vathana Keodouangdeth.

With Afghanistan beating Turkmenistan 3-1 in Thursday’s other Group B clash, Philippines will advance to the semi-finals as long as they avoid defeat against the Turkmen on Saturday.

Philippines: Roland Muller, Simone Rota, Rob Gier, Juan Luis Guirado (Amani Aguinaldo 49’), Dennis Cagara, Jason De Jong, Paul Mulders, James Younghusband (Martin Steuble 46’), Stephan Schrock (Ruben Doctora 72’), Patrick Reichelt, Phil Younghusband.

Laos: Vathana Keodouangdeth, Ketsada Souksavanh, Saychon Khunsamnan, Khonesavanh Sihavong (Sousadakone Liepvisay 59’), Phoutthasay Khochalern, Soukaphone Vongchiengkham, Lembo Saysana (Viengsavanh Sayyaboun 67’), Bountavy Sipasong, Khamla Pinkeo (Sengdao Inthilath 77’), Khampheng Sayavutthi, Tiny Boumalay.

Myanmar defeated by Palestine in Challenge Cup

Myanmar will have to wait till the final day of their 2014 AFC Challenge Cup Group A campaign to book their place in the semi-finals after losing 2-0 to Palestine on Wednesday.

Radojko Avramovic’s charges, who claimed an impressive 3-2 win over hosts Maldives in their opener, did not enjoy similar luck as they were beaten by their physically-superior opponents.

Abdelhamid Abuhabib netted his second goal in as many games to put the Palestinians ahead in first-half injury-time, before Ashraf Nu’man made it 2-0 in the 50th minute to make sure of the victory.

All four sides still stand a chance of qualifying after Maldives claimed a 2-0 win over Kyrgyzstan in Wednesday’s other match.

Ali Ashfaq was the star of the show for the Red Snappers as he opened the scoring a minute after the hour mark, before scoring again to end the contest ten minutes later.

Wednesday’s 2014 AFC Challenge Cup Group A Results

Myanmar 0-2 Palestine

Kyrgyzstan 0-2 Maldives

Philippines held by Afghanistan; Laos thrashed in Challenge Cup

Philippines were unable to claim maximum points in the opening game of their 2014 AFC Challenge Cup Group B campaign after being held to a 0-0 draw by Afghanistan.

In a keenly-contested clash at the Addu Football Stadium, the Azkals had a number of excellent chances to win it but were just unable to find the finishing touch in front of goal.

Stephan Schrock came close for them on the half-hour mark with a 40-yard drive that sailed over, before Patrick Reichelt was just unable to convert Simone Rota’s right-wing delivery eight minutes later.

Right on the stroke of halftime, Philippines were unlucky not to take the lead when Jason De Jong’s follow-up effort was saved by Mansur Faqiryar after James Younghusband’s initial header had come back off the bar.

Afghanistan did have a golden opportunity in the 67th minute when substitute Mustafa Zazai broke the offside trap, only to miss the target with only Neil Etheridge to beat.

Schrock then wasted another opening 11 minutes later when he fired wide after OJ Porteria had won possession and played the ball to him, before the Azkals’ final chance went begging in the final minute when Reichelt sent a free header narrowly wide of the opposition goal.

In Tuesday’s other Group A game, Laos were handed a heavy 5-1 loss at the hands of Turkmenistan.

It was Thim Xad who took the lead three minutes after the half-hour mark when Khampheng Sayavutthi pounced on a half-clearance, and sent a spectacular bicycle kick into the back of the net.

But Turkmenistan equalised three minutes before the break when Dowlet Bayramow netted with a close-range header, after the ball had smashed off the post and bounced into his path off the back of Vatthana Keodouangdeth.

The Turkmen then edged ahead in the 50th minute when Didar Durdyyew scored from the spot after Bayramow had been fouled inside the area by Sengdao Inthilath, and it was 3-1 two minutes later as Keodouangdeth could only deflect the ball over his own line following a goal-mouth scramble.

The result was put beyond doubt in the 85th minute when Farhad Italmazow raced down the right and played a perfect cross to leave Durdyyew with a simple finish, before Bahtiyar Hojaahmedow completed the rout three minutes from time when he sent an unstoppable shot past Keodouangdeth.

Philippines v Afghanistan

Philippines: Neil Etheridge, Simone Rota, Jerry Lucena, Juan Luis Guirado, Daisuke Sato, Chris Greatwich (Jason De Jong 21’), Martin Steuble, James Younghusband (OJ Porteria 63’), Stephan Schrock, Patrick Reichelt, Ruben Doctora (Kenshiro Daniels 77’)

Afghanistan: Mansur Faqiryar, Abbasin Alikhil, Haroon Fakhruddin, Faisal Sakhizada, Zamir Daudi (Hassan Amin 56’, Amiruddin Anwar 82’) , Mustafa Azadzoy, Faysal Shayesteh, Balal Arezou, Mohammad Mashriqi (Mustafa Zazai 64’), Ahmad Hatifi, Mustafa Hadid.

Turkemistan v Laos

Turkmenistan: Nikita Gorbunow, Sohrat Soyunow, Akmyrat Jumanazarow, Serdar Geldiyew, Serdar Annaorazow, Suleyman Muhadow, Guwanc Abylow (Bahtiyar Hojaahmedow 82’), Didar Durdyyew, Dowlet Bayramow (Farhad Italmazow 73’), Myrat Hamrayew, Ahmet Atayew (Umidjan Astanow 46’).

Laos: Vathana Keodouangdeth, Ketsada Souksavanah, Saychon Khunsamnan, Khonesavanah Sihavong, Phoutthasay Khochalern, Soukaphone Vongchiengkham, Lembo Saysana (Sopha Saysana 77’), Bountavy Sipasong (Chuefong Xiong 84’), Sengdao Inthilath (Khamla Pinkeo 86’), Khampheng Sayavutthi, Tiny Boumalay.

Myanmar down Maldives in Challenge Cup opener

Myanmar opened their 2014 AFC Challenge Cup Group A campaign in impressive fashion after claiming a thrilling 3-2 win over hosts Maldives at the Galolhu National Stadium.

After making a bright start and threatening the opposition goal on numerous occasions in the opening exchanges, the White Angels were dealt a real blow in the 22nd minute when Tin Zaw was sent off after being harshly penalised for handball and shown a second yellow.

But in the 38th minute, it was them who took the lead when an excellent slide-rule pass by Min Min Thu allowed Kyaw Ko Ko to race in behind to Maldives defence, before coolly sliding the ball past the onrushing Imran Mohamed.

And right on the stroke of halftime, Myanmar remarkably doubled their tally as Kyaw Ko Ko turned provider; holding up the ball on the edge of the box before playing a pass in behind Mohamed Shifan for Nyein Chan Aung to run onto and fire home.

The Red Snappers did manage to pull one back in the 55th minute when Ali Ashfaq skipped past a man down the left before cutting the ball back to Mohamed Umair, who unleashed a blistering drive that was too hot for Thiha Sithu to keep out.

Six minutes after the hour mark, it looked as though they had equalised when Mohamed Arif’s incisive pass was touched into the path of Ashfaq, but he was flagged for offside after racing through and firing into the bottom corner.

As the game entered its closing stages, Maldives continued to step up the intensity of their forays forward but were just unable to find a way past their Southeast Asian opponents.

Their best chance arguably arrived six minutes from time when Ashfaq played a visionary through-ball to Ali Fasir, but Thiha Sithu did well to charge off his line and deny him in a one-on-one situation.

And in the fifth minute of injury-time, Myanmar appeared to have wrapped up the three points after Kyaw Ko Ko initiated a blistering counterattack and exchanged passes with Min Min Thu, before charging into the box and firing a shot that squirmed under Imran’s body and over the line.

However, right from the restart, the hosts went on to reduce the deficit once more when Ashfaq received possession just inside the box and burst past Aung Zaw before firing home, although it proved to be too little too late as Radojko Avramovic’s charges held on for the win.

In Monday’s earlier game, Palestine also got their campaign off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over Krygyzstan, courtesy of a 96th-minute winner from Abdelhamid Abuhabib.

Maldives: Imran Mohamed, Akram Abdul Ghanee, Mohamed Shifan, Amdhan Ali, Mohamed Rasheed, Hussain Niyaz Mohamed (Ibrahim Fazeel 60’), Mohamed Umair, Shamweel Qasim (Mohamed Arif 46’), Ashad Ali, Ali Ashfaq, Ali Fasir.

Myanmar: Thiha Sithu, Aung Zaw, Zaw Min Tun, Thein Zaw, Khin Maung Lwin, David Htan (Pyaye Phyo Aung 70’), Min Min Thu, Yan Aung Kyaw, Nyein Chan Aung (Ye Win Aung 82’), Kyaw Ko Ko, Yan Paing (Yaza Win Thein 89’).