DUBAI — An improved second-half performance by the Philippines was not enough as the Azkals bowed to Group A leader Syria, 0-1, Tuesday night in their joint Fifa World Cup and AFC Asian Cup qualifying match at Maktoum bin Rashid Stadium here.
Ward Alsamh struck in the 23rd minute as the Syrians survived a late Azkals barrage for their fifth win as many matches in the group.
The win gave the Syrians an eight-point gap over China and the Philippines.
The Azkals missed golden opportunities in the second half with Angel Guirado sending a first-time shot off target in the 54th minute off a fine ball from Curt Dizon.
Substitute Mark Hartmann also sent an effort straight Ibrahim Alma in the 73rd minute after some nice interplay between Mike Ott and Iain Ramsay on the left.
The Azkals will be left ruing a missed chance to trim the lead of the Syrians in the group.
Syria overwhelmed the Philippines, 5-2, in Bacolod last September but the Azkals showed more defensive solidity this time, keeping their shape when the hosts were in possession.
But a momentary lapse in concentration led to the only goal of the match as a quickly taken free kick found Osama Omari’s run on the right. Osama’s low cross rolled past Alvaro Silva and Justin Baas before finding Alsamh who struck an unstoppable effort to the roof of the net.
The Azkals have a long break with their next match against Guam scheduled March 26 at home.