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MANILA, Philippines – They made history yet again.
The Philippine women’s football team clinched its maiden AFF Women’s Championship title after stunning Thailand, 3-0, on Sunday, July 17 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Jessika Cowart and Katrina Guillou drilled in two early goals in the first half before Sarina Bolden slotted in the second-half dagger to secure the historic victory for Philippine football in front of a lively crowd of over 8,000.
Cowart scored the first goal of the match at the 8th minute after she headed in the ball from team captain Tahnai Annis’ corner kick.
Following multiple clearances by Thailand in the penalty box, the Philippines finally cracked the defense once more as Guillou doubled the advantage at the 20’ mark by slotting in the ball past Thailand goalkeeper Chotmanee Thongmongkol.
Bolden was the last player to get into the score sheet as she connected with Sara Eggesvik’s corner kick at the 89’ mark to seal it for the Filipinas, who already made history early this year by nailing the country’s first World Cup berth.
“For them to get through this grueling schedule… to finish like that with so much spirit and determination is a testament to this team,” said Philippine head coach Alen Stajcic after the Filipinas ruled the regional tournament.
“We climbed a little hill tonight. We conquered Southeast Asia, but I know there are big mountains ahead. It is a great hill to climb and there are bigger challenges ahead of us.”
Earlier, Myanmar denied Vietnam a podium finish as the dethroned champion absorbed a 4-3 decision in the battle for bonze.
Before the championship match, Stajcic opted to retain the back five that kept a clean sheet in the semifinal against Vietnam.
And their presence was immediately felt by the Thailand attackers as they stifled every scoring opportunity in the first half.
On the other side of the pitch, Bolden was wreaking havoc with her brilliant off-ball runs as the entire midfield and striking partner Guillou kept on feeding her accurate through balls.
Bolden had a shot straight at the goalie at the 30’ mark, while her header off the Sofia Harrison long throw-in just looped above the goal bar as the score remained at 2-0 at halftime against the erstwhile unbeaten Thailand.
After hitting the goal bar just before the halftime whistle, Quinley Quezada continued to impress in the second half as she had two goal scoring opportunities to stretch the lead.
Her first attempt was an overpowered shot from a Bolden backheel, while Quezada’s second at the 59th minute hit the goal post after escaping multiple defenders.
Multiple yellow cards were then brought out by referee Bui Thi Thu Trang from Vietnam as she tried to take control of the hostile match.
Ploychompoo Somnuek was the first player to receive a yellow as she pushed Eva Madarang to hurry her walk after being substituted by Malea Cesar.
Hali Long was booked next following a crunching tackle on Kanyanat Chetthabutr at the 61’ mark. Stajcic was also given a card after he complained to the referee’s recent call to book Long and give Thailand a free kick.
Two minutes later, Phonphirun Philawan received her own yellow card after pushing Bolden midair for a position to get the ball from a goal kick.
At the 71st minute, veteran midfielder Annis was the first player to receive a standing ovation from the home crowd as she was substituted for Carleigh Frilles.
Stajcic then took out numerous starters as he allowed the crowd to celebrate the efforts of the Filipinas. – Rappler.com