KUALA LUMPUR - The Philippines Azkals notched their second straight win in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup, surviving a late charge by Timor-Leste to eke out a 3-2 win at the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium and move into a two-way tie for the lead in Group B of the biennial tournament.
Playing in front of a sparse but noisy crowd made up of a handful of Kuala Lumpur-based Filipinos in what was supposed to be a home match for Timor-Leste, the Azkals survived some anxious moments in the opening minutes but gradually took control of the match midway through the first half.
They finally got on the board in the 27th minute when Stephan Schrock's cross found Phil Younghusband in the center of the box, and the Azkals skipper's strike was only partially deflected by Timor-Leste keeper Aderito Fernandes, the ball rolling to the left corner for a goal.
Just six minutes later, Martin Steuble doubled the score after gathering Kevin Ingreso's pass off a set piece and blasted home a shot from the right flank just outside the box that also found the left side of the net.
De Murga made it 3-0 in the 68th minute with a header from close range off a cross from Ingreso on another set piece.
But Timor-Leste came to life in the last 20 minutes with two goals in a span of three minutes. Nathaniel Reis pulled one back in the 73rd minute with a penalty kick following a foul by Paul Mulders in the box. Two minutes later, Joao Pedro Da Silva Freitas latched on to a through ball from Henrique Wilson Da Cruz Martins to beat Azkals keeper Michael Falkesgaard and make it 3-2.
But the Azkals managed to hang on and secure the full three points.
The O Sol Nascente came close to scoring first just five minutes in when Nelson Viegas found himself on a one-on-one with Falkesgaard, who managed to block the attempt with his leg. Shaky defending also led to a couple of Timor-Leste corners a few minutes later, although no clear shot was created.
But the Azkals eventually settled down and had their first shot on goal in the 16th minute off a corner, with De Murga's header going straight to Fernandes. From then on the Azkals controlled much of the possession until Timor-Leste made that late charge.
The Azkals now have six points to move into a tie atop the leaderboard with Thailand, which blasted Indonesia, 4-2, at home. The War Elephants, though, have a seven-goal lead in goal differential. The two sides meet on November 21 at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod with solo leadership at stake.
Timor-Leste lost its third straight.
-Schrock was booked for a yellow card in the 30th minute for a hard foul. He was replaced 10 minutes later by Iain Ramsay after an apparent injury.
-Phil Younghusband's goal was the 52nd of his international career. This match was also his 101st cap.
-Manny Ott missed the game with a foot injury sustained in their match against Singapore. He stayed behind in Bacolod.
-Neil Etheridge, who was not used, will miss the remainder of the tournament to return to his mother club Cardiff in the English Premier League.
-The team dedicated the win to Vhonne Servinda, one of their biggest fans, who passed away early Saturday due to a lingering illness.