The Philippine Azkals crashed out of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, bowing to the Kyrgyz Republic, 1-3, at the Al-Rashid Stadium in Dubai to end their campaign in last place in Group C with three losses.
Vitalij Lux scored a hat trick to power his side to third place in their group and keep alive their chances of advancing to the knockout stage.
Kyrgyzstan controlled the tempo from the opening kick-off, pinning the Azkals to their half of the field and launching attack after attack. They finally broke through in the 24th minute when Lux found the back of the net with a nifty one-touch shot from the center of the box to the top right corner off an cross from Akhlidin Israilov.
The Azkals regained their bearings towards the end of the first half, finding more success in the attacking third, but were unable to create any clear chances. Lux nearly scored again in the 45th but his left-footed strike from close range hit the post.
Lux got his second goal in the 51st minute with a brilliant turn inside the box that rocketed into the far right corner of the goal. The Azkals had an excellent chance to pull one back just three minutes later when Manny Ott's short pass found Javier Patiño as he was racing towards the goal, but Kutman Kadyrbekov just got his hand on the ball to tap it out. Patrick Reichelt gathered the follow-up and had an almost empty net in front of him, but his attempt was wide to the right.
Lux completed his hat trick in the 77th minute with a follow-up after Mirlan Murzaev's effort hit the post to put the outcome beyond doubt.
Stephan Schrock, the Azkals' best player in the tournament, salvaged a measure of pride by scoring off a long set piece in the 81st minute that bounced in. Just two minutes later, Phil Younghusband had a good chance to narrow the gap further with a cross from the right flank that Patiño just missed heading in. In the 86th, Reichelt had one last chance with a solo run, but his attempt from close range found the side netting.
The Kyrgyz Republic will have to wait for the results of the final matches in the other groups before knowing if they will advance. As it stands, they are in second place among third-placers with three points.
The Azkals wrap up their maiden stint in this prestigious quadrennial tournament with three losses, conceding seven goals and scoring one.
They made a good impression in their first match, making South Korea work hard for a 1-0 victory, but were blown out by China, 0-3 in their next match. South Korea went on to top Group C with a 2-0 victory over China.
-Sven-Goran Eriksson's contract with the team ends at the end of the month.
-James Younghusband finally saw action, coming in for Adam Reed in the second half.
-As for the other Southeast Asian nations competing, Thailand are through to the round of 16 after finishing second in Group A with four points. The War Elephants fired their coach after losing 1-4 to India in their opening match. Suzuki Cup winners Vietnam are winless in two matches and need a win over Yemen in their final match on Friday to have a chance of advancing.