BUCAUE, Bulacan — A CROWD of 7,500 had to swallow a bitter pill Tuesday night as the Philippine Azkals bowed down to a stronger Uzbekistan national team, 5-1, in the 2018 World Cup Asian qualification match at the sprawling Philippine Stadium here in Bucaue, Bulacan.
Things went downhill immediately in the first minute as Odil Ahmedov's low and weak shot just went in between the legs of Walsall FC keeper Neil Etheridge to give the Uzbeks an early 1-0 lead..
The heavy rain and lightnings did not stop the Uzbeks from attacking and follow up with another goal in the 14th minute. Sardar Rashidov pranced around Stephen Palla and blasted a power shot after he received a pass from Vitaly Denisov for a 2-0 advantage.
The Uzbeks decided to pull back from offense but a patient Igor Sergeev beat the Azkals’ offside trap, and finished with only the keeper to challenge to score his first goal in the 43rd minute giving them a 3-0 at halftime.
Keen to bring fresh players on the pitch in a hope to turn the tide around, coach Thomas Dooley brought in Amani Aguinaldo and Stephan Schrock to replace Luke Woodland and Ian Ramsay in the second half.
Although the Philippines looked much brighter than their counterparts at the start of the second half, Sergeev scored his second goal with a beautiful header giving the Uzbeks a 4-0 advantage.
Stephen Schrock scored a fantastic free kick for the Azkals minutes later to keep their hopes alive but still were stuck in a 1-4 hole.
Saror Rashidov then dashed all the Azkals hopes in the 80th minute with another goal to put the match beyond reach, 5-1.
In post match conference, a bullish Samvel Babayan, who although kept humble with the match outcome, left a warning to the rest of the footballing community.
"Uzbekistan is now reborn and we will be improving game by game and as we are improving, soon, the whole of Asia will know our name."
Thomas Dooley defended his boys saying that the initial goal affected much of the scoreline.
"In the first key, we started in the wrong direction and everything we planned for was gone. We have to fight we have to play and hopefully we will have a chance."
The Azkals will next head to North Korea and Bahrain for two away games. Their next match at home will be on November 12 against Yemen. MDV