MANILA, Philippines - Kuwait defeated the Philippine Azkals, 3-0, in the first leg of their FIFA World Cup qualifying match at the 25,000-seater Mohammad Al-Hammad (Qadsia Club) stadium in Hawally.
Yousef Nasser opened the scoring with a header in the 16th minute that evaded goalkeeper Neil Etheridge's outstretched hands.
Musaed Neda made it 2-0 in a goalmouth scramble in the 65th minute. Replays of the goal showed that it may have been an own goal by an Azkals defender.
Fahed Al-Ibrahim preyed on the tiring Philippine side with a long-range thunderbolt in the 85th minute.
The Philippines nearly scored a few minutes into the first half when Phil Younghusband, who played a lone striker role, went one-on-one with the Kuwaiti goalkeeper, who parried off his shot.
A resulting corner saw an Angel Guirado header rattle the crossbar.
Younghusband also hit the crossbar in a long-range volley in the 30th minute.
Kuwait, the defending Gulf Cup of Nations champion, dominated possession in the match, with the Azkals deciding to sit back in a counterattacking 4-5-1 formation.
The Kuwaiti players launched their attacks through long balls to the sides of the box, while the Azkals resorted to long balls to Younghusband, who often found himself isolated and looking for a teammate.
After end-to-end action in the first half, the Azkals lost steam in the second half.
Their coach, Michael Weiss did not bring in fresh legs into the match even after the 80th minute, when cramps and the heat were taking their toll on his players.
The win was Kuwait's 8th-straight victory.
The Azkals started the game with Neil Etheridge, Rob Gier, Jason Sabio, Anton del Rosario, James Younghusband, Phil Younghusband, Manuel Ott, Jason de Jong, Ray Anthony Jónsson, Chieffy Caligdong, and Angel Guirado.
Meanwhile, Kuwait's starting XI were Nawaf Al Khaldi, Dfamer Matoug, Fahad Awad, Hussain Fadhel, Mesad Nada, Fahad Al Enezi, Fahed el Ibrahim, Talal el Amer, Waleid Ali, Bader al Mutwa, and Yousef Naser.
The Philippines missed the services of skipper Aly Borromeo and Stephan Schroeck, who were suspended for the first leg of the tie against Kuwait after they incurred 2 yellow cards in the opening round of the World Cup qualifiers.
Weiss used a defense-oriented, counterattacking 4-5-1 formation in lieu of his favored 4-4-2 system.
The formation looked to have worked well in the first half, with Kuwait failing to penetrate the Azkals' defense.
However, with fatigue setting in, the Philippines' defenders sat deep in the second half, allowing Kuwait attack with impunity.
Veteran winger Chieffy Caligdong, who scored twice in the Azkals' recent friendly matches with the Bahrain Under-23 XI, was captain of the Philippine side.
Kuwait coach's Serbian coach, Goran Tufegdzic, told the Arab Times before the match that he wanted his team to beat the Azkals, 3-0, in the opening leg.
However, Tufegdzic reiterated that they respect the Philippine team. "We are not treating them as first-timers although, Kuwait is more experienced," he said.
Azkals team manager Dan Palami said he is proud of the Azkals for reaching this far into the competition. "Whatever we do, we always have to remember the time when talent and resources were scarce and all we had was heart," he said.
The second leg of the World Cup qualifying tie will be held at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on July 28.