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Filipinas thrash reigning champion Vietnam, book ticket to 2022 AFF Finals

The Philippine Women’s National Football Team earned a spot in the 2022 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Championship Finals after routing defending champions Vietnam, 4-0, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium earlier tonight, July 15.

Sarina Bolden scored a brace in the second half to lead the team, while Hali Long and Tahnai Annis each added a goal in the relentless Filipina attack.

On the front foot

The match started with both teams getting their share of the ball’s possession but both were unable to create any chances to score early on. However, the Philippines gradually amped up their efforts to defend, closing down Vietnam in the midfield while keeping the ball away from their half.

The Filipinas utilized long balls and through balls to their forwards Isabella Flanigan and Bolden to put pressure on the Vietnamese defense, but were unsuccessful in connecting for extra options down the wings. Using the same strategy, the Filipinas started dominating in possession of the ball and threatened to open the scoring before the half.

Team Philippines created their first chance to score on goal with a cross from the right wing that was just narrowly cleared by the Vietnamese defenders in the 29th minute. The breakthrough finally came after Annis found centerback Long for a towering header that went off the crossbar before finding the back of the net. This gave the Filipinas a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute.

Following the deficit, Vietnam was constantly under pressure after Bolden attempted a lob from the edge of the box that just went wide to the right of the goal. The Filipinas were given another chance to extend their advantage when Flanigan found Bolden with a short cross within the box, but her shot was thwarted by the defender.

Vietnam had a last-ditch chance to equalize before the halftime whistle with a free kick from the edge of the penalty box. The last shot of the first half went wide to the goalkeeper’s right and the halftime interval began with the Filipinas holding a slim 1-0 advantage.

Writing history 

After a fast-paced first half, Bolden wasted no time before beating three defenders on the right wing to send a deadly cross into the box that ultimately led to another shot going wide.

The Filipinas stayed relentless on the attacking front and ended up winning a penalty from an opposing handball. In the 50th minute, team captain Annis calmly converted from the spot to put the Filipinas up, 2-0.

Vietnam looked to fight their way back into the crucial playoff game, controlling possession of the ball for the next 10 minutes. However, the Philippines stayed steadfast on the press and utilized their defenders to push the tempo on the counterattack. In the 60th minute, in a flash of individual brilliance, Bolden earned a corner kick after darting down the right flank of the  Vietnamese backline. 

In another set piece, the Filipinas’ leading scorer, Bolden, blasted a header off a cross to increase the lead to 3-0.

Vietnam continued to push the ball forward but found no luck against the efficient Philippine defense. In the 70th minute, a scramble after a crossbar hit allowed Bolden to earn her second goal of the game and her seventh in the tournament, giving the Philippines a comfortable four-goal buffer against the Southeast Asian powerhouse.

Minutes away from history, the Filipinas stayed strong downfield, with much credit to goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel. 

After the final whistle was blown, the home crowd erupted as the Philippine Women’s National Team secured their best-ever finish at the AFF Championship to date. 

Head coach Alen Stajcic had high praises for the squad’s effort, hailing it as their “most complete performance in the last three to four years.”

After a stellar two-goal outing, Bolden was ecstatic to beat one of the region’s best teams. She lauded her teammates, “It [was] a team effort and we’re proud of every player that reached out.”

The team’s top scorer also expressed her gratitude toward the fans, “When you have [the] home crowd, it’s the greatest feeling and it really, really helps. The numbers are really growing and I hope that it continues in the championship game.”

The Philippines will look to avenge their sole loss against Thailand in their bid for the crown. The final game of the tournament will see both squads go down to the wire at 8pm on Sunday, July 17, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

By Diego Manzano

By Aren Reyes

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