Azkals fall short of goal after sorry loss to Palestine in AFC Challenge Cup final
By Karlo Sacamos
THE Philippines’ cherished dream remained just that: a dream.
The Azkals fell short of reaching the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup after bowing to Palestine, 0-1, in the AFC Challenge Cup final early Saturday at the National Stadium in Maldives, Male.
A stunning second-half free kick from Ashraf Alfawaghra proved to be the difference and sent the Filipinos into misery.
The Palestinians thus brought some good news to their war-torn nation after booking the last ticket to the Asian Cup where they will be up against quality teams Japan, Jordan, and Iraq, among others.
Overall, it was still a remarkable finish for the Azkals, who reached a final of a major tournament for the first time in history.
The Palestinians dominated possession in the first half where they created at least four clear-cut chances that were just denied by standout Filipino goalkeeper Roland Muller.
Muller, however, failed to save Alfawaghra’s free kick that went into the upper-left corner, awarded to Palestine after Jason de Jong committed a foul in the 58th minute.
The Azkals conjured their own attempts, including their best chance four minutes before stoppage time when Phil Younghusband escaped his defender, took the goalkeeper one on one, but fired his shot over the bar.
Searching for that equalizer, Daisuke Sato attempted a long-range missile that was just saved by the Palestinian goalkeeper a few minute before second-half injury time.