MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Sri Lankan Brave Reds held the Philippine Azkals to a 1-1 draw as they frustrated the Nationals’ attempt to score a historic first win in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The Nationals had difficulties controlling the tempo in the first half against the Sri Lankans' tough defense.
The Sri Lankans scored the first goal of the game when Chathura Gunaratne’s free kick went through in the 40th minute.
Fortunately, Filipino-American Nate Burkey scored a header off a Chieffy Caligdong free kick on the 49th minute to equalize for the Azkals.
It was a highly physical game that was marred by diving on the part of the Sri Lankans.
The uneven grass of the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo also affected the Azkals' ball handling.
Several Azkals, including James Younghusband, Angel Guirado and Stephan Schrock, were given yellow cards for fouling their opponents.
The Azkals also had several scoring attempts through Phil Younghusband, Aly Borromeo and Chieffy Caligdong, and Ian Araneta.
The match was the first leg of a 2-leg home-and-away tie.
The next leg will take place at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on July 3.
The Philippines needs to either win or hold Sri Lanka to a goalless draw in the second leg to advance to the next round.