Bocaue, 23 Safar 1438/23 November 2016 (MINA) – Phil Younghusband produced a captain’s goal on Tuesday evening to keep alive Philippines’ hopes of qualifying for the semifinals of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup after a 2-2 draw against Indonesia at the Philippine Sports Stadium.
The point puts the co-hosts second in Group A, behind Thailand, and above Singapore and Indonesia, espnfc.com reported.
But the Indonesians seemed headed for their first victory of the tournament when Boaz Solossa put them in front for the second time on the night in the 68th minute.
That was after Misagh Bahadoran had cancelled out Fachrudin Aryanto’s opener in the first half.
But, with eight minutes left on the clock, Philippines’ all-time top scorer Younghusband stepped up to the plate with a brilliant free kick to earn his side a share of the spoils.
The Azkals will now play the already-qualified Thais in their final group game on Friday, knowing they need a positive result to stand a chance of a top-two finish.
However, a draw could be enough to see them qualify for the last four should the other match also end all square.
In a free-flowing contest which saw both sides create plenty of chances, the Merah Putih drew first blood after seven minutes in the wake of a needless foul from Philippines defender Martin Steuble.
From the free kick, Stefano Lilipaly swung in a dangerous ball, and Fachrudin was somehow allowed to climb unchallenged to guide a downward header past Roland Muller.
Philippines attempted to muster an immediate response. But they were largely restricted to efforts from distance, with Martin Steuble and Manny Ott both trying, yet failing, to beat Kurnia Meiga.
Meanwhile, Indonesia captain Boaz was looming as his side’s most dangerous player. He forced Jeffrey Christiaens to make a vital clearance just before the goal-line before threading a neat pass through to Andik Vermansyah that required Amani Aguinaldo to race across and block.
But a minute after the half-hour mark, the Azkals equalised through a set piece of their own.
From the left, Stephan Schrock floated a dangerous delivery into the six-yard box, and Bahadoran showed the greatest desire to reach it first, and poked the ball home.
Younghusband came to the rescue.
Buoyed at pulling level, it was then the hosts who showed the greater initiative in the second half as they enjoyed the better of the proceedings, even though they were still unable to carve out many clear openings.
Instead, it was the Indonesians who looked the more dangerous. Muller had to make a couple of decent stops to keep out efforts from Lilipaly and Evan Dimas.
Still, Philippines continued to be slow to close down their opponents on the edge of the box and, in the 68th minute, they were punished.
Although Andik’s left-footed drive from all of 25 yards came back off the post after beating Muller, the Azkals were slow to react. It was Boaz, from a trio of Indonesians, who was on hand to score on the rebound.
But with eight minutes left, Younghusband came to the rescue.
He may no longer be the man leading the line having been deployed in a deep-lying midfield role by coach Thomas Dooley.
But his deadly instincts have not deserted him. When his side were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, the 29-year-old rose to the occasion by curling a sublime effort into the top corner to hand his side a share of the spoils. (T/R07/R01)
Miraj Islamic News Agency (MINA)