Former Philippine Azkals coach Simon McMenemy described it as “the most important, yet underrated goal in Azkals history.”
The scorer was neither Phil Younghusband nor Chris Greatwich, heroes of “The Miracle in Hanoi” in the AFF Suzuki Cup group stage in the Vietnamese capital 10 years ago that resulted in the country making its semifinal debut in Southeast Asia’s premier men’s football tournament.
McMenemy was referring to the last-gasp goal by midfielder James Younghusband, whose equalizer lifted the Azkals to a match-saving 2-2 draw against Laos in the Suzuki Cup qualifiers on Oct. 26, 2010, at the National Stadium in the Laotian capital of Vientiane.
A video clip capturing that epic moment by James, who announced his retirement on Thursday on his Instagram account after a storied career, can still be seen on the AFF’s official YouTube account.
With the match winding down, the tall and lanky midfielder took a long clearance by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, rising above a swarm of defenders, including keeper Sengpachapan Bountisanh, to side-head the ball into an empty net in injury time.
Skipper Aly Borromeo and teammates Ian Araneta, Rob Gier, brother Phil Younghusband, and Ray Jonsson could be seen celebrating, hugging and congratulating the hero for coming to the Azkals’s rescue.
“Jimmy (Younghusband), my boy, covered a lot of ground. His work rate at either flank was incredible. Such an engine on him,” Gier said in an earlier webcast interview of the moment that produced that enterprising goal.
The Azkals had earlier dug themselves in a 2-0 hole at the break, with Phil Younghusband breathing life into the visitors’ fading campaign by converting a penalty kick in the 75th minute.
That goal by James Younghusband was significant because Laos, the Philippines and Cambodia emerged in a three-way tie for first in the four-team Suzuki Cup qualifiers with identical 1-2 win-loss records. Winless Timor Leste dropped out of contention.
The Laotians and the Filipinos wound up with similar plus-5 goal difference, with the former having one more goal (8-7), pushing the two squads into the group stage. The Cambodians were left out in the cold, having a plus-2 goal difference.
Without James Younghusband’s pivotal marker, the Azkals would not have advanced to the regular Suzuki Cup competition, changing the complexion of Philippine football forever.
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