DEDEDO, Guam — The Philippine Azkals came up with a strong start and a stronger finish to dominate Guam, 4-1, in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Tournament Tuesday at the Guam Football Academy National Training Center here.
Four different players, led by captain Stephan Schrock, delivered for the Azkals, who bounced back from a 2-5 defeat to Syria last week in their Group A opener.
“What’s important is we get the win,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami.
“We know we still have our work cut out for us in our remaining matches but its nice to get on track.”
Getting a second consecutive start, Angel Guirado fired the opener six minutes into the match. Schrock provided the cross for Guirado to head home at the far post.
Guirado turned provider six minutes later as he found Patrick Reichelt with a clever ball. The Filipino-German made no mistake doubling the lead in the 12th minute.
But just when the Azkals thought they had the Matao pegged back, the home side fought back. But the Matao’s lack of quality upfront meant the Azkals were off the hook on several occassions.
The Azkals missed a couple of golden chances early in the second half with substitute Javier Patino bungling an opportunity from point-blank range and Schrock firing wide off a fine pass by Reichelt.
Emboldened by the string of Azkals misses, Guam cut the deficit in the 67th minute after Marcus Lopez beat Michael Falkesgaard from the penalty spot.
The foul was slapped on Carlie de Murga who pushed Travis Nicklaw inside the area while they were going for a header.
Schrock restored order with a brilliant solo effort after Guam’s buildup broke down at midfield. He allowed Patino to slip past the defense, but opted to fire a shot from just inside the box to the bottom corner to make it 3-1.
Finally, Schrock got his first international goal following an impressive finish past Guam goalkeeper Jaye Dallas in the 81st minute.
Azkals coach Scott Cooper made four changes from the squad that played against Syria with youngsters Justin Baas and Yrik Gallantes handed their debut while De Murga and Mark Hartmann were inserted into the lineup.
The changes quickly paid off with Schrock supplying the ball for Guirado to head home for the opening goal.
“This game was about winning and getting the goal difference back and we got what we came here for,” said Azkals coach Scott Cooper, whose team shifts its focus on China, whom the Azkals play on 15 October at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.
“But we have to look at our finishing, especially when you compare it to Syria, which had seven shots and scored five goals. I can’t say we played bad because we created some chances, but we won’t get a lot of opportunities against the better teams.”