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Dooley picks up first win as Azkals coach after 3-0 blowout versus Nepal

April 12, 2014 3:41am
Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley. Mark Cristino

(Updated 7:18am) After several fruitless outings, American Thomas Dooley, appointed as Azkals head coach last February, finally picked up his first win with the Philippine national men's football team, the Azkals, walloping Nepal, 3-0, Friday (Saturday, PHL time), in a friendly at the Grand Hamad Stadium in Qatar.

It was welcome news for the squad, as they had just taken a 13-spot tumble in the April edition of the FIFA rankings. It was also the squad's first win in 2014, following on the heels of a 0-0 draw versus Malaysia, and a 1-0 defeat to Azerbaijan last month, all of these matches serving the purpose of preparation for their Challenge Cup campaign at the end of May..

Nepal, 159th in the world, actually moved up a spot, rankings-wise this month.

The last game the Philippines played versus Nepal was in October 11, 2011 in Manila. In that friendly, the Philippines won, 4-0. The goal scorers were Phil Younghusband — who had two goals, brother James Younghusband, and Matthew Hartmann.

It was a very interesting Starting XI sent out by Azkals coach Thomas Dooley. Nicholas O’Donnell was in goal. Simone Rota, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado, and Daisuke Sato were the defense. James Younghusband, Chris Greatwich, Martin Steuble, Curt Dizon, and Jason de Jong manned the midfield. Patrick Reichelt was up front.

This was the first start and cap for O’Donnell, Dizon, and Sato.

O’Donnell is Filipino-Canadian and played for Ateneo on last year’s UAAP Championship team. He currently plays for Kaya FC in the UFL.

Dizon was born and raised in England and currently plays for Global FC in the UFL. He was in the Crystal Palace Academy and joined the Nike Chance scouting tournament, where he just missed the final cut.

Sato is Filipino-Japanese, having been born in Davao and raised in Japan. He was part of the the youth team of the Urawa Reds, one of the more popular teams in the J-League. He also currently plays for Global FC in the UFL.

The Azkals came out strong, their short passes working well and with nary a nervous moment in the first minutes. Dizon and Sato gave great accounts of themselves, showing that they could definitely play with the big boys.

At the 14th minute, the Azkals struck, and it was, not surprisingly, a goal from Dizon. Sato rocketed the ball from just about the halfway line to Dizon who was just on side up front.

There was not a lot of work to do for O’Donnell in the first 30 minutes, as there was only one clear attempt by Nepal and he ably saved the ball that was headed straight for him.

At the 32nd minute, it was 2-0 for the Azkals, with Martin Steuble heading home the ball from a wonderful James Younghusband cross. It was Steuble’s first goal for the Philippines.

However, showing that not everything is new with the Azkals, Jason de Jong was shown a yellow card at the 40th minute. The tattooed Azkal, known for his fiery temper, pulled on an opponent’s uniform.

O’Donnell had a little more work to do in the last 15 minutes of the half, but he was up to the challenge. Juani Guirado and Rob Gier also remained solid at the back, ensuring that the Philippines would hold a 2-0 lead at the half.

The Philippines came out and played more physically in the second half. Balot Doctora, who came on for Curt Dizon at the break, was shown a yellow card for an elbow to the face of a Nepalese player.

At the 53rd minute, Phil Younghusband was sent on for de Jong, who was still his feisty self out on the pitch. Phil’s left thigh looked like it was fully bandaged, as his recurring injury has not yet healed.

There was a scary moment in the game, as Gier went down momentarily and was holding on to his forehead after a midair collision with a Nepalese player. Gier and the Nepalese player had to get some treatment at the sidelines, temporarily cutting down both teams to just ten players each.

Coach Dooley continued with the substitutions, something that was arguably few and far between when Michael Weiss was head coach. Dooley sent on Kenshiro Daniels for James Younghusband at the 64th minute. He would later also send in Anton del Rosario for Sato and Simon Greatwich on for Steuble.

Nepal also played hard and tough during the game, and Jagjeet Shresta was finally shown a yellow after pushing down Chris Greatwich. They had been up in each others faces throughout the game.

At the 83r minute, Dooley sent on Charlie Cusi Pettys for Rota. This was also Petty’s first cap and first call-up. He currently plays for Global FC in the UFL and was born and raised in the US.

There were several more chances for the Azkals late in the game. An attempt in the 87th minute was particularly good. Reichelt — who was mostly held in check by the Nepalese defense throughout the game — found Doctora inside the box, but Balot’s shot just went straight to the keeper.

But at the 90th minute, Balot redeemed himself by finding the net. The speedy player from Iloilo was way too fast for the whole Nepalese team, as he outstripped everyone and blasted his shot in.

After three more minutes of added time, the Azkals celebrated the 3-0 victory. All three goal-scorers chalked up their first goals for the Philippines in the game versus Nepal.

Even given the scoreline, the Azkals game was not perfect. There was some miscommunication in the defense, particularly between the central backs and Rota, that was thankfully plugged up by O’Donnell in goal.

In their continuing preparation for the Challenge Cup, the Azkals next face a local club from Qatar, Al Ahli, on Monday, April 14, 2014.  - AMD, GMA News
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