Kuwait foiled the Philippines' bid of earning even a win in their second leg match of the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers on Thursday night at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.
Kuwait scored a 2-1 win to for a 5-1 aggregate tally as the Al-Azraq survived the Azkals' gallant stand to keep their 2014 World Cup dream alive. Kuwait has already qualified in the main draw of the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain.
Yousef Sulaiman and Ahmed Jumah scored the goals for Kuwait in the 61st and 85th minute. Stephan Schrock gave the Philippines a 1-0 lead at the half when he booted one in two minutes of injury time.
Up tempo match
With a three goal deficit, the Azkals played a high defensive line to push forward and pressure the Kuwaitis from the start.
Both teams had chances to score with Kuwait looking to counter-attack the Azkals pressing game in the incredibly high tempo match.
Both teams also played the ball quickly and effectively behind great passing. The Philippines also abandoned their old long ball tactics.
The final ball was a problem for both teams, though, as they just couldn't quite reach their strikers in clear-cut chances but Schrock stepped up to hit a screamer into the top corner just before half-time.
This gave the Azkals a chance to push forward to possibly score again and, with Fahad Al-Ebrahim being sent off, after a dangerous challenge against Chieffy Caligdong, it looked like they would get that opportunity.
However, playing so high up the pitch Kuwait broke on the counter and scored immediately after the red card to stun the pro-Filipino crowd.
Kuwait, down to 10 men, managed to counter attack and played the ball well to the left, with Jumah finding the back of the net.
The Azkals fought hard, defending tenaciously and tirelessly tracking players. Rob Gier particularly made many great last-ditch challenges and cut the ball out several times but it just wasn't enough.
Despite the result, the crowd gave the home team a standing ovation as they left the pitch with chants of "Azkals, Azkals, Azkals" ringing in their ears.
Unrelenting first half
Schrock was tenacious and Caligdong tireless but Kuwait displayed much better ball dribbling, coordination, and set plays.
Azkals keeper Neil Etheridge was excellent at the goal, intercepting several Kuwait attempts. Kuwait's goalie was not to be outdone and saved the Azkals' near goals.
Apparently, part of Kuwait's strategy is to slow down the match, prevent the Azkals from building momentum whenever they set their attack plans in motion.
This, judging by the repeated injury stoppage times, with some away from the action, and also by their well-coordinated set-plays and passing.