AFC Challenge Cup: Azkals make history, beat Maldives 3-2 to qualify for the finals

File photo of Phil Younghusband. (Czeasar Dancel/NPPA Images)

The Philippine Azkals made history with a 3-2 victory over Maldives in the AFC Challenge Cup. The Azkals engaged the home team in an exciting battle but a late strike from Chris Greatwich propelled the Philippines into the finals against Palestine.

Maldives was happy to meet the Philippine Azkals in the semifinals. They were playing in their home pitch and they felt that the Azkals are an easier foe. However, the gallant Filipinos refused to give the home team any breathing room. From the onset, the Azkals put the pressure on Maldives.

Phil Younghusband started the proceedings by scoring in the 19th minute. The Azkals went in for an early kill as they attacked without cease.

However, Maldives equalized the game in the 35th minute as Mohammad Umair lobbed one over Filipino goal keeper Roland Muller.

The Azkals quickly retook the lead as Jerry Lucena scored his first goal for the Philippine Azkals to push them ahead 2-1 at the 39th minute.

Maldives got a shot at an equalizer early in the second half but Muller got another save.

After Amani Aguinaldo was given a yellow card with a tackle on Ibrahim Fazil. Muller was put to the test again but like what he did against Turkmenistan, the goal keeper came up with an amazing save to penalty kick.

However, Muller could not stop Maldives' equalizer at the 66th minute. Working off a corner kick, the ball was deflected by Assadhulla Abdulla before it bounced off an Azkal boot and into the back of the net.

Maldives looked like it was primed to take the lead at the 86th minute as they caught Muller out of position but the other Azkals stepped up to keep the scored tied at 2-all. The score remained deadlocked after 90 minutes which led to 30 minutes of extra time.

Younghusband got the ball rolling in the first 15 minutes of extra period as his attempt was blocked by the goal keeper for a corner kick. After the corner, Younghusband got the ball back and he sent the ball to the box. It ended up with Chris Greatwich who scored to give the Azkals a 3-2 lead at the 104th minute.