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Azkals back in business, whip Guam’s Matao
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Azkals back in business, whip Guam’s Matao

DEDEDO, Guam, September 11 ------ Captain Stephan Schrock bagged his second goal of the year, while Patrick Strauss finally found the back of the net almost a year after debuting for the Philippines and the Azkals rolled past a fearless Guam Matao, 4-1, on Thursday to get their campaign back on track in the World Cup Qualifiers. Finding space just outside the box, Schrock struck with a well-placed finish to restore a two-goal cushion after Marcus Lopez cut the deficit with his 67th penalty as the Azkals finished with a flourish after wobbling in the middle parts of the match at Guam FA National Training Center here.

“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, which the Azkals play on Oct. 15 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.” Strauss put the finishing touches to a superb performance that saw him start at rightback and move to midfield in the second half as he coolly slotted the ball past Jaye Dallas nine minutes from time for the final score.

Raring to bounce back from a 5-2 defeat to Syria, the Azkals started the game with urgency and verve as Schrock picked out Angel Guirado for a free header at the back post for the opening goal six minutes into the match. “I warned the team at the beginning about Guam because they have a lot of spirit,” said Schrock. “They gave us a great fight and had ideas on where they could capitalize against us.” The visitors were two goals ahead by the 12th minute as Guirado’s through ball found Patrick Reichelt, who fired into an empty net.

“The best feeling in the world is to score for the mother country,” said Schrock. “We could have done better with our execution, but we all work toward the goal of reaching the next round.” Coming off the bench, Javier Patiño was far from his lethal self, wasting a couple of great opportunities, including a sitter early in the second half. Schrock also had a great chance going wide after a fine pass from Reichelt, while Hartmann was denied by the crossbar late in the first half.