DUSHANBE, Tajikistan – The Philippines were down 1-0 with 8 minutes to go against a dogged Bahraini side on Monday night, April 10. With their AFC Asian Cup qualification hopes hanging by a thread, they needed a bit of magic at the Pamir Stadium. They got it courtesy of Lady Archer Sara Castañeda.
A hopeful ball into the box by Patricia Tomanon was headed upwards by striker Eva Madarang. An unmarked Castañeda pounced on the leather, slamming it home past Bahrain goalie Nouf Al Khalifa. It is Castañeda’s fourth goal of the 2018 AFC Asian Cup campaign. She has scored in all of the team’s four matches in this qualifying group.
You can see the score here. (The score was incorrectly attributed to Sara’s younger sister Anicka, who was also on the pitch.)
The 1-1 scoreline held until the final whistle, and that was enough to book coach Buda Bautista’s team into the premier national team competition in Asia. It will be the first time the Philippines will participate in the AFC Asian Cup for women since 2003, when no qualification phase was required.
The Pinays have one group match to go in this qualifying campaign, against Jordan on Wednesday, but they have already secured enough points for passage. The team previously defeated the UAE, Iraq, and hosts Tajikistan 4-0, 4-0, and 8-0 respectively.
(READ: Women’s football: It’s all coming together for the Philippines)
Bahrain seemed determined to foil the potent Philippine attack with an organized midfield and defense that stymied the Filipinas in the first half. But the Pinays did enjoy a good spell before the halftime whistle, with Dai Dolino scuffing a close-range header off a corner, Hannah Parado volleying to the goalkeeper, and Claire Lim unspooling a long-range shot just over the bar.
Lim also raised eyebrows just before the half with a powerful free kick from the center circle that just missed the goal frame.
But 11 minutes into the second period it was Bahrain who broke the deadlock. A simple forward pass from the midfield was brilliantly volleyed past goalie Inna Palacios by Noori Sami Al-Dossary for 1-0. It was the first goal Palacios had conceded in the entire qualification phase.
The Pinays buckled down and almost leveled 3 minutes later when Filipina-American Madarang forced a good save from Al Khalifa. Two minutes after that Madarang thought she had scored her fifth of the tournament but the goal was correctly nullified for offside.
In the 71st minute Tomanon, who was switched from left to right back for this match, turned and shot from distance but could only ripple the side netting.
Then 11 minutes later Sara Castañeda’s superb volley, probably the most important goal in the history of women’s football in the Philippines, allowed fans to breath a huge sigh of relief.
The Philippines seemed intent on claiming the full 3 points, and Lim nearly did just that by rocking the post a minute before time. A Filipina corner kick also nearly squirreled in but was denied by a goal line clearance from the Bahraini defense. Substitute Mary Christine Duran had the final chance but pushed her shot wide.
The Philippines are second in the table with 10 points. On Wednesday they play Jordan, which has taken all of a possible twelve points in their four matches and demolished Tajikistan on Monday 10-2. The Jordanians have actually qualified as hosts but were allowed to play in this round-robin qualification group anyway.
The Philippines joins Jordan, Japan, Australia, China, and Thailand in the 8-team final stage in Jordan in April of next year. The winner of Group B, either North or South Korea, will also qualify, as will the winner of Group D, either Vietnam or Myanmar.
“It was a crazy match. It was like playing for the title,” said Bautista afterwards.
“We wanted this more so we were able to bounce back and I am just thankful for the win. I am speechless. At half-time I said to my players that they needed to find some composure. Bahrain also really wanted the slot and we just had to remember how we played in the last 3 games.” – Rappler.com
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