MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The Philippine Azkals lost to Kuwait, 1-2, in their FIFA international friendly Tuesday night in Kuwait City, but head coach Hans Michael Weiss is still satisfied with the Azkals' performance.
The Al-Azraq, ranked 112th by FIFA, used their speed down the flanks to penetrate the Filipinos’ defense in the first half, with Bader Al-Mutawa pulling them ahead in the 35th minute.
The Azkals recovered their poise with the entry of striker Phil Younghusband, who converted a penalty in the 59th minute after a Kuwait player was called for a handball inside the box.
Kuwait, however. restored their lead via a penalty conversion by Hamad Al-Enezi in the 69th minute.
Despite the loss, Weiss remains positive and believed the Azkals "made tremendous progress."
"We played very, very good, especially in the second half," he said. "In the first half, we gave them too much space to run from deep behind so that caused us several problems."
He commended goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who had some spectacular saves in the first half, including a Kuwait penalty in the 35th minute.
The Azkals were unable to exact revenge against Kuwait, who were their tormentors in the World Cup qualifiers last year. But Weiss believes that the good result against Al-Azraq shows the team is headed towards the right direction.
"We had a narrow 2-1 loss which could have been easily a draw, so I think that shows that we're going the right direction. I am satisfied, no problem," he said.
Younghusband, who scored the Philippines' lone goal, said the Azkals were "getting closer."
"We're getting better and it shows the improvement from last year. As long as we keep on improving, soon we will be on the level of the top Asian countries," said Younghusband.
Younghusband and his brother, James, re-joined the Azkals for the Kuwait friendly after not being available for their previous match against Bahrain, which ended in a goalless draw.
"In all honesty, we got new players. We got a new team but we played very well," said Etheridge. "We have to remember that Kuwait is a great team in Asia, and we respect them."
"They played tough, but we did ourselves no harm and we played very, very well," he added. "In all honesty, on another day, I think we can get another good result."
The Philippines had 10 scoring attempts against Kuwait's 13, with six shots on target compared to nine from Kuwait.
Kuwait had 55% of ball possession, while the Philippines had 44%. Three Filipinos were given yellow cards, while two Kuwaiti players were booked.
The match was held as part of the Azkals' preparation for their upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup campaign in November.
"It's very good preparation for the team," said Azkals team manager Dan Palami. "We are in the thick of preparations for the Suzuki Cup and this is one game that certainly made us realize how far we still have to go."
"As far as the results are concerned, I think it's a fair result," he added. – Report from Maxxy Santiago, ABS-CBN News Middle East Bureau