Philippine Azkals yield AFC Challenge Cup Crown to Palestine


The Philippine men’s football team bowed to Palestine 0-1 in the finale early Saturday (Manila time) held in Maldives and missed the chance to take home AFC Challenge Cup crown for the first time.

The Philippine Azkals’ magical run hit the end of the road when it rammed into the best defensive team of the tournament.

Palestine preserved its streak of not allowing a goal in a close 1-nil win against the Azkals at the National Stadium in Male, Maldives Friday night to win the AFC Challenge Cup and booked the last ticket to the Asian Cup next year.

Third minute of the game Mousa tested Muller with a log range shot but it went direct in to Muller’s hand.
Four minutes later Fares delivered a good ball to Mousa, but Mousa’s shot from edge of the penalty area went over the crossbar.

In the sixteenth minute of the game Muller produced a great save on Abuhabib’s shot from inside the penalty area. Abuhabib received a decent pass from Alfawaghra but Muller dived and punched away the ball to deny the attempt.

Ten minutes later Muller shows his talent again denying another effort from Abuhabib, Muller dived and punched Abuhabib’s shot from outside the penalty area.

Five minutes remaining in the first half Younghusband could have gifted the lead to Philipines. He beats his marker and shoots the ball in one against one with keeper from inside the penalty area but the shot went over the crossbar.

Two minutes later Palestine also missed a clear open chance. Alfawaghra beat his marker and half way keeper but he delayed a bit and Philippines players covered the area and Alfawaghra couldn’t shoot the ball in to goal.

Eight minutes in to second half Theeb went close to hand the lead for Palestine but his header was deflected by the crossbar.

The tournament’s leading scorer Ashraf Alfawaghra scored the marginal goal off a free kick on top of the box in the 58th minute.

After the goal from Palestine, Philippines put some pressure on Palestine defense line but was not able to create a clear chance in font of the goal.

After five minutes of added minutes match ends 1 – 0 in favor of Palestine and took Palestine to the Asian Cup 2015.

Palestine’s win was enough to uplift the spirits of his countrymen back in their war-torn nation and purge the ghost of their loss to the Azkals in the battle for third in the last edition of this tournament.

Palestine dominated the match all throughout controlling most of the possession, though the Azkals also had their chances but could not convert.

The Palestinians proved they were not only the best defensive team of the tournament but also showed up with a better offense peppering the Azkals with 16 shots, eight on target, which led to Alfawaghra’s goal. The Azkals just had nine shots on goal with only two on target.

The Filipinos grew frustrated towards the end of the match with Azkals manager Dan Palami asked to leave the technical area due to excessive complaining.

It will be first time that Palestine, which has only been recognized by FIFA in 1998, will compete in the Asian Cup, which will be held in Sydney Australia in 2015.

The Palestinians will be bracketed with Jordan, Iran, and Japan in group D.

The Azkals, meanwhile, failed book a ticket for the AFC Asian Cup as they settled for second place in the biennial tournament.

But it was still the Filipinos’ best finish in the Challenge cup after reaching a previous high of third place in 2012 when they defeated the Palestinians.

“Sorry if we failed you PILIPINAS we tried but fell short. Thank u Daddy God for this opportunity. In victory & defeat, to God be the glory,” tweeted team manager Dan Palami shortly after the match.

Up next for Philippine Azkals is the Suzuki Cup this November to December.
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