By Jonas Terrado
The Philippine Azkals conceded a first half goal before falling short of salvaging a tie in a 1-0 loss to Syria Tuesday in the FIFA World Cup/AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.
Ward Salama’s goal in the 23rd minute proved to be the difference maker as the Azkals tried several times late to equalize but to no avail, thus suffering their second loss in Group A.
The Azkals, who were also beaten 5-2 by Syria in their first meeting in Bacolod City last September, stayed on level terms with China at seven points for third place after the final second round qualifying match of the calendar year.
A draw would have allowed the Azkals to overtake China for second place in the group.
Syria hiked its hold on top spot in Group A with 15 points through five matches.
Salama scored past Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge by hitting the roof of the net to put the Syrian booters in front.
Martin Steuble gave the Azkals their first chance at tying the score but his weak attempt went past the right post.
Mike Ott set up an opportunity for Mark Hartmann, whose six-yard attempt was stopped by Syrian keeper Almeh Ibrahim.