MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Azkals outclassed the Maldives in their international friendly at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Thursday night.
The Maldivians gifted the Philippine side an own goal in the second half, before Jerry Lucena connected with a header that completed a 2-0 win against the visitors.
The first half action saw the Azkals, who are preparing for their World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan next week, hard at work in trying to slice open the Maldives' defense.
The Maldivians fended off four shots from the Azkals, including near goals from Misagh Bahadoran and Patrick Reichelt.
Phil Younghuband later secured a free kick which went on target, but it was deflected by Maldives keeper.
In the second half, the Azkals were able to get a corner, one that sent the ball to the center of the box. Maldivian Mohammed Samdhooh tried to deflect the ball to the opposite direction but instead sent it into their own goal.
This enabled the Philippines to secure a 1-0 lead in the 48th minute.
Seven minutes later, Stephan Schrock sent the ball to the middle of the box and a team mate passed it toward Jerry Lucena. The Danish-Filipino was in perfect position for a header and score the second goal for the Philippines.
It was his second international goal, and his second also against the same team.
The Filipinos and the Maldivians previously clashed in the semifinals of the 2014 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in Male, where the Azkals won, 3-2.
The victory was a perfect cap to the Azkals' preparations for their Word Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan next Tuesday.
The Maldivians are also preparing for their own qualifying match against China in Beijing.
Before the game, Azkals coach Thomas Dooley said they treated the friendly as if it is a World Cup match.
“For us, it’s a very important game,” said Dooley. “We’re obviously trying to prepare for the game against Uzbekistan and I’ve told the players that we don’t have friendly games anymore – we take every game seriously, we want to win every game.”
The Pinoy booters will be meeting the Uzbeks at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
“The important games are the World Cup Qualifiers but it’s as important to get good results going to the game against Uzbekistan. We don’t want a bad result heading to the World Cup Qualifiers. We want to develop a winning habit. We’ve had two good results and we wanna continue it before we play Uzbekistan,” said Younghusband. – with a report from The Philippine Star