BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The Azkals’ mauled the visiting Blue Wolves of Mongolia at the packed Panaad pitch last night, scoring two goals before over 25,000 fans and millions more at home to underscore the rebirth of Philippine football.
Playing aggressive ball before an overwhelming home field support, the Philippine side dominated Mongolia from start to finish and gained the headstart in their AFC Challenge Cup 2012 qualifiers duel here.
Emilio Caligdong, a veteran forward from nearby Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, and midfielder Phil Younghusband, football’s poster boy from Britain, knocked in the goals for the fancied Azkals, typifying the squad’s potent mix of homegrown talents and Fil-foreign aces.
The Azkals will go for the Blue Wolves’ jugular for the second leg on March 15 in chilly Ulan Bator. The Mongolians need to beat Phl booters by 3-0 to salvage the tie and qualify to the group stages beginning March 26 in Chittagong, Bangladesh.
The final score did not actually reflect the one-sided nature of the match, with the Filipinos enjoying long periods of possession and the Mongolians content on being a defensive side in the match witnessed by more than 25,000 people in white shirts.
"We expected a difficult match, the team and myself prepared for a match like this. We showed patience and great determination. Even though we didn’t convert many of our scoring opportunities, we managed a 2-0 in the end,” said Phl coach Hans Michael Weiss.
As promised by Weiss when he took over as Azkals mentor last month, the Filipinos got busier on the offensive end, attacking the Mongolian keeper Ganbayar Tseveensuren with impunity right from the get-go.
They failed to find the mark in their first six goal attempts before Caligdong finally struck at the 42nd minute, sneaking the leather in between the legs of Tseveensuren to put the hosts in the scoreboard.
The icebreaker gave the Azkals the confidence to crank up dangerous incursions into the Mongolians’ territory in the second half, playing a Mongolian side that was three-man short owing to two yellow cards slapped on Pagamsuren Altantulga (a foul and delay of game infraction in the 25th minute) and injuries to Garidmagnai Bayasgalan (75th minute) and Ochbayar Olzvoi (89th minute).
"I couldn’t understand why my player was given a second yellow card. That (ejection) made it a lot difficult for us,” said Mongolia coach Erdenebat Sanadagdorj through an interpreter.
"The series is not yet over though. We’ll go back to Mongolia, prepare and hope to win by three goals,” he added.