Mike Ott’s strike in the 88th minute gave the Philippine Azkals a hard-earned 1-1 draw against Yemen at the Al Wakra Stadium.
Tawfik Ali gave the Yemenis the lead in the 62nd minute after a mad scramble inside the box. The Azkals started well but went through almost the entire game scrambling for a goal.
Some defensive lapses allowed the Yemenis to pounce at the goal only to be frustrated by goal keeper Neil Etheridge and the crossbar.
Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley says the result is better than losing all three points against a good and tough opponent.
“We are happy with the tie. Obviously we wanted a win for us to qualify outright in the Asian Cup but it didn’t go as well as we thought,” Dooley said after the game.
Missing several key players due to injuries, Ott rose to the occasion.
With the Azkals just 12 minutes away from suffering their first defeat in Group F in the Asian Cup Qualifying, the diminutive Ott made the biggest play for the boys in blue.
“When you are behind it is not a good feeling but Coach (Dooley) made good adjustments. Everybody was coming in to get everything. At the end of the game it is good to make the goal,” Ott added.
The draw allowed the Philippines to keep the lead in Group F with eight points. Yemen is in joint second with six.
Tajikistan tied Yemen at the second spot with a 3-0 win over Nepal.
The Philippines will next travel to Nepal on November 14.
“We will seal the deal on Nepal,” Dooley guarantees.
By Erel Cabatbat