(UPDATED) The Philippine Azkals opened the third round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers with a goalless draw against Yemen, Wednesday at the MFF Football Centre, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
The Azkals, ranked 133rd in the world by FIFA, controlled most of the possession but could not find the back of the net, and settled for a point in their first match.
The 24 remaining teams are battling for the remaining 11 spots in the AFC Asian Cup 2023. The winners of the six groups, as well the five best second-placed teams, will qualify. The Philippines is seeking a second straight appearance in the Asian Cup after their breakthrough in 2019.
"About the game, I'm not unhappy," said Azkals coach Thomas Dooley, who is looking to once again lead the Philippines to the continental competition. "We saw a lot of good things in the game, how we played."
"We rushed a little bit in the end, we should have played more like we did in the first half," he added.
They had their chances against Yemen, a side ranked 151st in the world by FIFA. In the 59th minute, 19-year-old midfielder Sandro Reyes won a corner kick, leading to a fine cross by Manny Ott to Kenshiro Daniels inside the box. However, his attempt was rebuffed by Yemen's goal-keeper, Salem Gamal Al-Harsh.
The Filipinos also threatened in the 82nd after Dylan de Bruycker was fouled by Yemen's Mohsen Mohammed. Mark Hartmann attempted to link with Jefferson Tabinas, but the defender was well marked and his header could not connect.
Ott came close to putting the Azkals ahead late, meeting the rebound off a poor clearance by Yemen but his attempt hit the side of the net.
Yemen also had their chances to nab all three points, but their final attempt in the 93rd was well read by Neil Etheridge.
The Azkals had nine attempts but only three were on target; Yemen had six shots on target though the Filipinos' defense stood firm every time. The Azkals controlled 63% of the possession in the match.
They return to action on Saturday against host nation Mongolia.