MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Philippine Azkals barged into the final group of the 2012 Challenge Cup tournament by hammering out a sensational 3-0 victory over the Bangladesh Bengal Tigers on Friday.
Filipino-Spanish booter Angel Aldeguer Guirado scored 2 goals while fellow striker Ian Araneta struck 1 to help the Azkals qualify for the tournament proper scheduled next year.
Araneta scored the first goal for the Philippines in the 41st minute after picking up a loose ball off Guirado.
Guirado, a revelation for the Filipino squad, followed this up by heading in a pass from Araneta in the 53rd minute.
The Filipino-Spanish booter struck again in the 79th minute by picking up a loose ball then shooting from 20 yards to the bottom left corner of Bangladesh’s goal.
|Angel Aldeguer Guirado scores his second goal with a strike 20 yards
from the goal.
The Azkals, who were held to two straight draws by Palestine and host country Myanmar, started out aggressively against the hapless Bangladeshis.
The aggressive play resulted in an early injury stoppage that had Bangladesh’s Zahid Hossein being carried off the field.
Asde from the consistent offense, the Azkals also set up an indomitable defense with team captain Aly Borromeo, Anton del Rosario and Ray Jonsson, clipping Bangladesh’s wingmen.
The Azkals' only scare was Bangladesh’s near score of a loose ball in the first half. Fortunately, Filipino-British keeper Neil Etheridge went out to clear the ball.
The Filipino booters now have a total of 5 points on 1 win and 2 draws to finish as the Top 2 team in their bracket.
Leading the group is Palestine, which defeated Myanmar (3-1) on Friday, for a total of 7 points on 2 wins and 1 draw.
Bangladesh finished 3rd with 3 points (1 win, 1 loss) while Myanmar finished dead last with 1 point (1 draw, 2 losses).
Only the top 2 teams will advance to the 8-team Challenge Cup finals in 2012.
As a reward for their effort, each Azkals player will receive $1,000 from team manager Dan Palami.
Palami offered the reward shortly before the Azkals game against Bangladesh.
The Filipino squad is scheduled to return to the Philippines early Sunday morning.
The Azkals will next prepare for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, which will take place sometime in June.
According to ABS-CBN Sports, it will be a home-and-away series. The Azkals' opponent will be known during the draw on March 30. - With reports from Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News, and Barry Viloria, abs-cbnNEWS.com