The Philippine freight train continued to steamroll the opposition as the girls inch closer to securing a berth in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup finals in Jordan next year. This time around, the Pinays whitewashed hosts Tajikistan, 8-0, for share of first, Friday evening in Dushanbe.
Fresh off a convincing win against Iraq two days ago and slightly shaken by a scoreless second half, the ladies in blue appeared to show some vulnerability at first as Tajikistan pressed for attack.
This was silenced when Eva Madarang delivered the go-ahead goal yet again inside 17 minutes, as she headed in Sara Castañeda’s cross.
Another 17 minutes in and 17-year-old Anicka Castañeda doubled the Philippine lead when she let loose a rocket from 18 yards out that Tajikistan goalie Sakhina Saidova was helpless to stop.
Four minutes later, a corner taken by Claire Lim was met by Hali Long and the defender headed in the Philippines’ third goal.
Three minutes into the second half, S. Castañeda took advantage of some confusion between Saidova and her backline, and she she headed the ball over the Tajikistani keeper to pad the lead at 4.
In the 59th minute, a free kick by Lim from near the halfway line found Long again, who was lurking near the left flank and beat Saidova by heading in her second goal and the Philippines’ fifth. 25 minutes later she connected with Lim yet again to complete a hat-trick of header goals.
Tajikistan’s defense had totally collapsed by this point, as substitute Mary Cristine Duran’s one-two with A. Castañeda resulted in the latter’s second goal of the game just a minute later.
In the 90th minute, Duran’s energetic hustle was rewarded when Tomanon’s cross was an easy header for her to put away.
Both A. Castañeda and Duran scored their first international goals from this game. Hazel Arce and Joanna Almeda came on as substitutes to earn their first caps. The Philippines also secured their third clean sheet thanks to Inna Palacios and Arce.
A. Castañeda was named AFC Woman of the Match, and she later admitted that it had been the biggest game of her life.
“It’s my first time starting for the women’s national team so I guess it was,” said the youngster who thanks her teammates, coaches and especially family for her merits.
“It really helps having her here to guide me,” A. Castañeda said of elder sister Sara.
The game was also a first of sorts for Long, who acknowledged it was the first time she scored that many goals with her head along with her first ever hat-trick.
“I still can’t fathom it all,” said the delighted 22-year-old who spoke praises of her teammates especially Duran’s closing goal.
“I’m proud of what we did and continue to do as a team. Everyone is stepping up this year and we’re making things happen. We’re taking one team at a time. I think we’ve set the bar pretty high for ourselves the first game, and I think we keep raising higher and higher,” said Long who also revealed that team morale is at an all-time high.
“The fact that we whipped out a 4-0 win in the first and second game, we realized like, ‘yeah, we can do this thing’ and we just kept the ball rolling. We feed off one another’s energies on and off the field.”
Tajikistan XI: Saidova, Sharipova, Sayramj, Halimova, Jumakhon, Iroda, Natalia (C), Iskandari (Zulaikho), Nodira, Mirzoeva (Olimova), Marjona (Laylo)
Philippines XI: Palacios (Arce), Lim, Dolino, Long, Tomanon (Duran), Navaja, Parado, Impelido (C), Castañeda S., Madarang, Castañeda A. (Almeda)
Next match for the Philippines will be against Bahrain on Monday, April 10 at 10 p.m. (Philippine time) where the Philippines just needs a point to qualify for the finals in Jordan next year.
Watch that game live here: http://mycujoo.tv/ch/273?id=4549
2019 AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers Group A Standings
JORDAN – 9 pts (+22)
PHILIPPINES – 9 pts (+16)
BAHRAIN – 4pts (-2)
TAJIKISTAN – 3 pts (-11)
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – 1 pt (-10)
IRAQ – 0 pt (-15)