By JONAS TERRADO
The Philippine Azkals were held to a 1-1 draw by Maldives Tuesday, June 15 (early Wednesday, June 16 Manila time) in the conclusion of their campaign in the second round of the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
Angel Guirado’s opener in the 19th minute was cancelled out by an equalizer by Ali Fasir in the 25th before the Azkals spent the rest of the way searching for that second goal that could have given them the full three points.
Instead, coach Scott Cooper’s side was forced to share the spoils with Maldives after the final whistle.
The result had no significant impact on the Azkals, who went into the match already assured of a spot in the third round of the Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The Philippines finished third in Group A of the joint qualifiers with 11 points on three wins, two draws and three defeats.
Guirado registered his 12th international goal with a right-footed volley from outside of the box that bounced past Maldivian goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal.
But the celebratory mood of that opening goal proved to be short-lived as Fasir found an opening on the Azkals defense, cutting past Justin Baas before converting a low attempt off goalie Bernd Schipmann.
Cooper made some changes in the second half, inserting goalkeeper Kevin Hansen for Schipmann, Mike Ott replacing Guirado and Martin Steuble taking the place of first-time starter Mark Winhoffer.
Jarvey Gayoso also subbed in for Mark Hartmann and Mar Diano came in for Baas as the Azkals’ final substitution late in the match.
The Azkals dominated possession, especially in the second half but their chances were prevented multiple times by Maldives’ defending at the back.