MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals suffered a painful 5-2 loss to Syria in its 2022 World Cup Asian Qualifiers opener on Thursday, September 5, at the Pana-ad Park and Stadium in Bacolod.
Although the Philippines took an early lead thanks to Javier Patiño's opening goal in the 7th minute, the Syrians took control of the game in order to finish on top of Group A with 3 points and +3 goal difference.
"The positive thing is how we started the game. We scored a goal in the first 15 to 20 minutes. We played with intensity, but after the goal, we relaxed a little," said Patiño who remained positive for the Azkals' run in the World Cup qualifiers.
"I think that something good is coming."
Omar Al Soma scored a brace after heading in the equalizer in the 15th minute and further pulled the scoreline away in the 56th minute with another header towards the bottom corner, 4-1.
Syria continued its momentum in the 30th minute as Khaled Almbayer dribbled past Martin Steuble in the dangerous area after a throw-in and quickly fired the goal towards the top corner, 2-1.
As the Syrians came out more aggressive in the second half, the Azkals' defense collapsed as the visitors won a penalty in the 50th minute and captain Firas Al Katib converted from the spot, 3-1.
The Azkals' offense improved after head coach Scott Cooper's brought in Mark Hartmann and Mike Ott as the Philippines was able to create more chances in the last 15 minutes of the game.
Ott capped off the Philippines' buildup for another goal in the 84th minute as Stephan Schrock sent a cross from the left flank that also received a touch from Daisuke Sato.
However, the goal-scoring party was not over as Mahmoud Almawas went one-on-one with Falkesgaard and netted in Syria's 5th goal of the match.
The Philippines aims to bounce back against Guam on Tuesday, September 10 in the Guam National Football Stadium. – Rappler.com
More commonly known as “Bee”, Beatrice is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Phillippine sports governance, national teams, football and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.