Younghusbands lift Azkals to 4-0 triumph

Sportsaholic

Phil Younghusband scored two goals and helped set up a third, while brother James added another one as the Philippine Azkals whitewashed Nepal, 4-0, in their FIFA-sanctioned international friendly Tuesday night at the Rizal Football Stadium.

A month and a day after their mother's untimely passing, the Younghusband brothers were in their element as they helped the Azkals dominate the Nepalese, ranked 31 places higher in the FIFA rankings, on both ends of the field.

"From now on all my games are dedicated to my mum and dad," Phil said. "They're looking down on us now. The fact that me and my brother scored makes it special for my mum."

Susan Younghusband died suddenly of a heart attack on September 10, while the Azkals were training in Bacolod. She would have been proud of her sons last night.

Phil first struck in the 17th minute with a shot from the right flank off a brilliant pass from Paul Mulders to give the Azkals an early 1-nil lead. Thirteen minutes later, James doubled the lead with a vicious strike from just outside the penalty box that found the back of the net in the far right corner of Nepal's goal.

Even before the Younghusbands' twin goals, the Azkals already had three excellent chances to score. In the fourth minute, Nepal keeper Ritesh Thapa failed to clear a cross from the right, leaving Ian Araneta with a good shot on goal. But the Nepal defense blocked the shot at the last minute. In the ninth, a good cross from James Younghusband found Chieffy Caligdong wide open on the left flank just yards from the goal, but the Air Force striker put too much behind his shot and the ball sailed wide over the crossbar. In the 15th, Araneta was again the recipient of a good cross from James Younghusband and only had Thapa to beat, but the Nepalese keeper was up to the task and foiled Araneta's attempt.

In the 12th minute, Sujai Shrestha had the best chance to get on the board for Nepal, his strike from the left just missing the post by inches. Other than that, the Azkals totally dominated the first half.

The second half saw the Nepalese, down 0-2, sending more men forward, but it was the Philippines that scored again when Phil recovered a deflected shot by Dennis Cagara inside the penalty box for a strike in the 54th minute that made it 3-nil.

Late substitute Matthew Hartmann made it 4-nil in the 89th minute after receiving a short pass from Phil near the top of the box and blasting home a shot to the left portion of the goal that Thapa just couldn't reach.

It was a good turnaround from the 0-2 defeat the Azkals suffered at the hands of Singapore last Friday, and for Coach Hans Michael Weiss, it was the result he had hoped for.

"In the meeting we had earlier on," Weiss said, "we sat together and discussed that we wanted to end this year with a bang, and have a clear answer to the people who weren't happy with our results. Offensive football in the first half [was] fantastic."

If Weiss was pleased, Nepal coach Graham Thomas could not contain his displeasure with his side's performance, which was marred by faulty passing and porous defense.

"We never turned up in the first minute," Thomas said. "I've never been ashamed of my team ever. And I was ashamed in the first half. We never passed the ball.

"The first goal, absolute disgrace. The captain gave up the ball. It's hard to take this. Their excuse will be we haven't played for three months. Well, I don't accept excuses."

But Thomas was also quick give credit to the Azkals, and admitted they were the better team.

"Tonight, I thought the Philippines were fantastic. They passed the ball well. I don't usually have a go at my team, but we never showed up tonight. But not to take any credit away from the Philippines. They were fantastic."

The Azkals will now take a break and resume training in January for the AFC Challenge Cup. With the progress made this year and a potentially loaded line-up in the works, 2012 promises to be an exciting one.

"I've been playing for the last six or seven years," Phil Younghusband said. "I think now we have players that complement each other. We have a team that can potentially be very good."

"If you can imagine (Stephan) Schrock, Manny Ott, (Angel) Guirado on this team, we can have a very, very bright future," Weiss said, referring to three quality players who were not around against Nepal.

The German coach added he hoped the players will get to stay in shape playing in the United Football League, which got underway last Saturday.

"After a minimal break, they should resume high-level training with our clubs," Weiss said. "With the UFL getting more professional, it will be good. If we now drop back with our efforts in training, it will not help us."

Weiss, meanwhile, will now shift his attention to the under-23 team that will be competing in next month's Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta. The team will be in Japan from October 24 to 31 for a mini-camp as they try to win a medal in football for the first time ever.

"We will go on the 31st to Indonesia due to early start of the football competition. It's important to get [the team] together as soon as possible."