|Javier Patino (33) of the Philippine Azkals shoots the ball against Cambodia in their AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 1) The Philippine Azkals thoroughly outclassed Cambodia, 8-0, in their AFC Challenge Cup qualifying match that was suspended for more than an hour after the Rizal Memorial Stadium pitch was rendered unplayable by a heavy downpour.
Phil Younghusband scored four goals, Javier Patino marked a memorable debut with a brace (2 goals), and the Azkals seized the top spot in Group E with Sunday's win.
It was a tremendous victory for the Azkals, who came into the match looking to equal or surpass Turkmenistan's 7-0 victory against Cambodia last Friday.
They were well on their way to that goal as they took a commanding 6-0 lead after 65 minutes, but at that point, the football field was already unplayable as heavy rains created several puddles over the pitch.
Game officials called two 30-minute suspensions, and after inspecting the pitch, allowed the match to continue.
The long delay did not seem to cool off the Azkals, as they immediately worked to get their seventh goal of the match.
Patino had a clear chance to make it 7-0, but his header bounced off the crossbar, and Angel Guirado's attempt moments later went wide.
Younghusband finally earned the seventh goal for the Azkals as Stephan Schrock, who displayed tremendous skill on the left flank the entire match, sent the ball in the middle of the box, and Younghusband did not waste the opportunity as he easily tapped the ball past the Cambodia keeper.
"It was easy for me - all I had to do was to get on the end of the ball," said Younghusband, who raised his total to 32 international goals. "The quality of my teammates, the quality they gave me, they made it so easy for me."
"But the most important thing was we won the game," he added.
In the 90th minute, Patino's attempt off a Schrock corner was blocked, but Carli de Murga soared into the box and his flying kick sent the ball into the back of the net to give the Azkals their eighth goal.
It was enough to give the Philippines a superior goal difference over Turkmenistan, allowing them to top Group E. The Azkals will need only a draw against the Turks in their game on Tuesday to advance to the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives.
|Stephan Schrock (C) of the Philippine Azkals attacks against Cambodia in their AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The Azkals won, 8-0, to top Group E. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
With Schrock controlling the flank and creating opportunities for the Azkals with his pinpoint crosses, the Philippines had several chances to score in the early minutes of the match.
But Cambodia packed the box and played tight defense in the first 20 minutes of the contest, blocking most of the Azkals' attempts including two shots on goal by Schrock.
Younghusband finally pierced the Cambodia defense in the 24th minute, when he took a pass from De Murga and beat three defenders along with the goalkeeper for his first goal of the match.
Just six minutes later, Younghusband scored again, this time in spectacular fashion as he curled the ball into a net off a good pass from Paul Mulders. He got his hat-trick four minutes later when he headed a cross from De Murga that dropped inside the line.
In the 45th minute, Patino got his first goal in an Azkals uniform after receiving an easy pass from Younghusband, and quickly beat the embattled Cambodia keeper.
Schrock made it 5-0 for the Azkals very early on in the second half, scoring off a long-range strike. Patino then netted his brace when he collected Angel Guirado's header and slotted the ball past the Cambodia keeper.
But torrential rain soon made the pitch unplayable, with the players finding it difficult to control the ball. The referees suspended the match in the 65th minute.
The rain-stoppage was not the first strange occurrence in the match. Towards the end of the first half, the lights at one end of the Rizal Memorial Stadium went out, causing play to be stopped for a few minutes.
The Azkals' defense was rarely tested throughout the match as action stayed on Cambodia's side of the pitch. Their only true challenge came in the 93rd minute, when Roland Muller had to save an attempt, and Khim Borey had a chance to score but his shot went wide.
"After the first goal, we thought we could continue scoring," said Azkals coach Michael Weiss, who said the current group of players in the national team was "very talented."
"It was a good team performance," said Schrock, who was spectacular all match long and often dazzled the Cambodia defenders with his skillful dribbling. "We can be happy with the result. Our coach gave us the right words at half-time and during the rain break."
The Azkals will play Turkmenistan on Friday with the hopes of advancing to the main draw in Maldives.
"We are in the driver's seat," said Weiss. "A draw will allow us to advance. We hope to show the same performance against Turkmenistan."
But it was not all good news for the Azkals since they will most likely be without Paul Mulders for Friday's game. Mulders was given a red card in the 83rd minute after kicking the ball to a Cambodia player.
"What he did, it was unnecessary," said Weiss.
The top teams in each of the groups, along with the two best second-place teams, will advance to the AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives.