Football: Kevin Ingreso struggles for words in unbelievable turnaround for Azkals

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 27 2018 11:22 PM | Updated as of Mar 28 2018 02:47 AM

Kevin Ingreso (14) scored the equalizer against Tajikistan. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines—Kevin Ingreso could not find the words to properly express his feelings after a roller-coaster of a performance for the Philippine Azkals in their AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Tajikistan on Tuesday at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

In a span of 10 minutes, the 25-year-old midfielder went from goat to hero in what turned out to be a 2-1 triumph for the Philippine men's national football team — a victory that sent the Filipinos to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

It was Ingreso who committed the hard foul on Tajikistan's Davronov Nuriddin inside the box, giving the visitors a penalty that Nazarov Akhtam coolly converted in the 64th minute.

Just 10 minutes later, however, Ingreso made up for his blunder by heading in a cross from Iain Ramsay to equalize, sending the crowd at the Rizal Memorial into pandemonium.

"I actually couldn't believe it," said Ingreso, who was named man of the match. "It's not often I score a goal with my head."

"I was crying. The tears came out," he acknowledged.

Ingreso was understandably hard on himself after committing the error that caused the Philippines to trail 1-0, but his teammates were there to boost his spirits.

"My teammates pushed me up," he said.

"The players were telling me that they knew I have character and I stepped forward, tried to do my best and made it even."

Asked to describe how he felt at the moment, Ingreso was virtually speechless.

"I cannot describe my feelings right now," he said. "I think it takes a few weeks to let it sink in, to believe what we achieved."

The one thing he knew for sure was that it was a well-deserved victory for the Azkals, who fought hard for 90 minutes and showed no signs of quitting even after falling behind.

And it was Ingreso, who went through a roller-coaster of emotions throughout the game, who exemplified the grit of the squad.

"I was the lucky one," said Ingreso. "I was in the right spot when Iain crossed the ball in."

"We made history today for Philippine football," he also said. "Everyone here, in the pitch, around the pitch — together we are all Filipinos . . . This is an achievement for all the Filipinos around the world."

(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)