The Philippine Azkals failed to hit the mark despite a souped-up roster and battled Malaysia to another goalless draw Wednesday night in their friendly match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Not even the return of Fil-Spaniard Javier Patino and the presence of top striker Misagh Bahadoran could prevent the Azkals from missing blanks and settled for a fifth straight tie with the Malaysians since 2012 – the last four all coming on nil-nil results.
It was not the result the Azkals wanted ahead of a bigger task as they play Nepal at home next week to start off their campaign in the final round of qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup.
Coach Thomas Dooley’s side is in Group F of the competition alongside the Nepalese, Tajikistan and Yemen, needing a top two finish after the home-and-away format to qualify for Asia’s biggest event.
Patino, goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and defender Daisuke Sato wore the Azkals shirt again after they were heavily missed in the team’s early exit in the AFF Suzuki Cup last November.
The match came hours after goalkeeper Roland Muller announced his retirement from the national team.
The Ceres-Negros custodian is best remembered for his stellar play in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup in Maldies where the Azkals nearly won the competition after losing to Palestine in the final.