The Philippine Azkals opened their AFC Challenge Cup with a scoreless draw against Afghanistan on Tuesday (early Wednesday Manila time) at the Addu Football Stadium in Maldives.
Despite missing key players, the Azkals still played solid but failed to cash in on several chances.
They had a hard time against the aggressive style of Afghanistan, which applied pressure to the Filipinos and found scoring chances in the first half.
One golden opportunity slipped away right before halftime when the Afghans were luckily saved by the crossbar.
The Azkals managed to tone down the aggressive Afghans in the second half, and continued to press its attack; but the Afghanistan goalie played huge with several great saves.
Bundesliga star Stephan Shrock almost had a rocket but it was tipped away while Patrick Reichelt narrowly missed a header in the 89th minute. Martin Steuble tried one last time to lift the Azkals a minute before the final whistle was blown but was also denied by Afghanistan keeper.
Both teams earned solitary point in the match that was delayed for an hour due to bad weather conditions.
The match was delayed for an hour after they had difficulty crossing the rough seas which they needed to cross to get to the stadium.
Phil Younghusband and team captain Rob Gier missed the match due to accumulated yellow cards while Carlie de Murga was nursing an injury.
Azkals coach Thomas Dooley inserted Ruben Doctora upfront, while youngsters Daisuke Sato and Simone Rota manned the backline along with veterans Jerry Lucena and Juani Guirado, who wore the captain’s armband.
The result put both squads at second place in Group B behind leader Turkmenistan, which walloped Laos, 5-1, earlier in the day.
The Azkals will play Laos on Thursday and Turkmenistan on Saturday for the group stages of the Challenge Cup, whose champion is assured of a slot in the prestigious Asian Cup in 2015.