The Philippines came through with a clinical 4-0 win over Malaysia last night to fortify its grip of the top spot in Group A with its third consecutive win while inching closer to the semifinals of the 12th AFF Women’s Championship at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
After being unsuccessful in piercing the packed Malaysian defense in the early going, Sara Eggesvik finally scored the breakthrough goal for the Filipinas with a 30-yard looping ball in the 23rd minute that saw goalie Nurul Mazlan tried to parry twice before momentum carried the ball over the line.
Eggesvik, who scored her first national team goal in the hosts’ 7-0 blitz of Singapore last Wednesday, had her second consecutive marker after relieving Kaya Hawkinson, who suffered a nasty bump on her forehead after butting heads in mid-air with a Malaysian player, in the 8th minute.
Katrina Guillou made it 2-0 lead for the hosts at the break with a left-footed follow-up of Tahnai Annis’s shot inside the box in the 43rd minute that was initially blocked by Mazlan.
Displaying her creative side, Eggesvik used her pinpoint passes to set up Quinley Quezada and substitute Anicka Castaneda with nifty headers in the second half for the Filipinas’ other pair of goals.
Getting a cross from the midfielder, Quezada, the country’s leading goal scorer, rammed in her header in the 47th minute for her 17th international goal while Castaneda was found by Eggesvik from the left wing, before sending it over Mazlan that virtually sealed the deal in the 72nd minute.
With their third straight shutout win, the Filipinas remained ahead with nine points over second-running Thailand, which blanked Singapore 3-0 at the Binan Stadium in Laguna, and was not too far behind with seven points with two wins and a draw.
In the first match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, Australia clobbered Indonesia 4-0 for its first win.
Needing not only a win but also plenty of goals, the Matildas had built a 4-0 halftime lead, with striker Amy Sayer running rampant past the Indonesian defenses with a four goal romp in the 9th, 13th, 15th and 44th minutes.
The wards of coach Melissa Andreatta sit in third place with four points after drawing Thailand, 2-2, two days ago and absorbing a stinging 0-1 loss to the Philippines on the opening day.
While happy with the victory, Filipinas coach Alen Stajcic was mildly upset by the ultra-defensive stand of the Malaysians “who disrupted our rhythm with their stop-start play,” and declined to look far ahead of the competition.
“It’s a cliché but we are taking it one game at a time and not putting the cart before the horse,” said Stajcic at the prospect of becoming the first squad to advance to the semifinals should his squad beat Indonesia on Sunday.
For the second straight match, the Australian tactician shuffled his deck brilliantly in making eight changes from the starting lineup against Singapore, including goalkeeper Kiara Fontanilla, who made her tournament debut in taking over the net-minding chores from Inna Palacios.
In the 60th minute, the Aussie coach also pulled out skipper Tahnai Annis, Guillou and Sofia Harrison for Malea Cesar, Isabella Flanigan and Castaneda.