Phil Younghusband netted a two minute first-half brace to propel Philippines to a 4-1 victory over 10-man Nepal in Group F of AFC Asian Cup qualifiers at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.
Australian-born Iain Ramsay and Javier Patino also got on the scoresheet to secure the Azkals a comfortable victory, which gives them a temporary lead in the group also containing Tajikistan and Yemen.
Nepal's difficult task was made even harder when midfielder Bikram Lama was shown a straight red card after only 13 minutes. Phil Younghusband missed the resulting penalty, but it didn't stop the home side's momentum.
Philippines, once regional minnows, have improved tremendously in the last few years and are the highest ranked Southeast Asian nation at 137th on the FIFA list.
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The presence of many mixed heritage players have added quality and physical supremacy to their game, and so the 2019 showcase at the United Arab Emirates could see this basketball mad country make their debut in Asia's elite tournament.
2016 AFF Suzuki Cup surprise semifinalists Myanmar, meanwhile, were left heartbroken after Sunil Chhetri's injury time winner gave India a 1-0 victory at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon.
The Bengaluru striker finished off a blistering counter-attack move for his 53rd international goal, and more importantly put India top of Group A of the qualifiers.
- Eugeneson Lyngdoh (@eugeneson10) March 28, 2017
"Wasn't an easy night where we may have been far from our best and left it late, but very happy to come away with three points. Keep backing us!" Chettri posted on his Twitter account after the victory. The talisman's strike also ended India's 64-year wait for a win in Myanmar.
Over in Dushanbe, Hassan Amin's screamer earned Afghanistan a point against Vietnam in Group C.
Nguyen Van Toan had headed the Golden Stars ahead after 62 minutes, but Afghanistan's captain came to their rescue with a memorable strike as both sides shared the spoils.
The two top nations from each of the six groups will make it to the tournament in United Arab Emirates in 2019.