By Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA—Unleashing the full brunt of its attack, the Philippines crushed Nepal, 4-0, Tuesday night in an international friendly before a sizeable crowd at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
Phil Younghusband struck twice and set up one goal, while older brother James and substitute Matthew Hartmann were also on target in a thorough domination of a Nepalese side ranked 31 places higher than the Azkals in the international rankings
“We wanted to end the year with a bang and give a clear answer to people who are not happy with the team,” said Azkals coach Michael Weiss.
“This is the way we wanted to play. Not to be arrogant but 4-0 is a mild result.”
Showing the incisiveness and clinical finishing that had gone lacking in the previous matches, the Azkals scored two goals in each half in one of their best performances for the year fashioned out before 8,000 fans.
The Azkals got off to a blistering start with three clear-cut chances in the first 15 minutes, before they were rewarded by Younghusband’s close-range strike.
Paul Mulders provided the pass that split the Nepalese defense before Younghusband drilled the ball into the bottom right corner of goalkeeper Kiran Limbu.
The 24-year-old striker grabbed his second for the night with a cool left-footed finish in the 55th minute after a pinpoint pass from Dennis Cagara freed him from eight yards.
Younghusband barely missed a hattrick in the 68th minute, sending his low shot wide after a lofted pass from goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
It was one way traffic in the first half with the Azkals enjoying plenty of possession and James Younghusband, who had proven to be a menace on the right flank, finally getting on the scoresheet in the 30th minute.
James found the back of the net from 20 yards out after Nepal failed to clear the ball due to the Azkals pressure from the the top of the penalty box.
Weiss lauded the performance of the Younghusband brothers, who, around this time last month lost their mother, Susan, due to a massive heart attack.
“Every game we play is for our Mom and Dad, I know they are looking down on us and are very proud,” Phil said.
Ian Araneta could have added a third two minutes from halftime, but he was unable to get on a touch on Dennis Cagara’s dangerous low cross.
In a bid to salvage the game, the Nepalese side made three changes at halftime.
But it hardly mattered as Cagara, now more adventurous on the left flank, getting into dangerous areas.
Cagara, who like fellow Fil-Danish player Jerry Lucena, made his home debut had a shot wide before creating the chance for Hartmann.
The 26-year-old leftback found Phil Younghusband darting into the area, before the striker fed an unmarked Hartmann, who rifled in a well-placed left-footed strike from just outside the box in the 89th minute.
Nepal coach Graham Roberts lamented his squad’s inability to cope with the Azkals pressure and pointed to the lack of matches as the culprit to their sloppy performance.
“We were not sharp enough and when we make mistakes, you get punished,” said Roberts. “Our defending was absolutely abysmal.”