Football: Gallant Pinays fall to dominant Australia in Women's Asian Cup

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2022 07:54 PM | Updated as of Jan 24 2022 08:29 PM

After a scoreless first half, Sam Kerr and Australia scored four goals in the second half. Photo courtesy of the AFC.
After a scoreless first half, Sam Kerr and Australia scored four goals in the second half. Photo courtesy of the AFC.

(UPDATED) The Philippine women's national football team displayed tremendous grit defensively, but were ultimately beaten, 4-0, by powerhouse Australia in the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022, Monday evening at the Mumbai Football Arena.

In their second match in Group B, the Filipinas held firm in the first 45 minutes despite a relentless wave of attacks by the Matildas.

Skipper Hali Long teamed up with Dominique Randle to once again anchor the backline, as they repeatedly frustrated Australia's star striker Sam Kerr. Also giving a good account of herself was young goal-keeper Kiara Fontanilla, who made her senior debut against the Matildas.

It would take 51 minutes for Australia to shatter the Philippines' defense, with Stephanie Catley's corner kick finding Kerr who headed the ball down the bottom left corner despite being marked.

The Matildas made it 2-0 just two minutes later, with Kyah Simon getting a touch though it was Randle who eventually sent the ball to her own net.

Emily Van-Egmond netted Australia's third goal in the 68th minute, heading in a rebound after a desperate goal-line clearance by Long initially denied the Matildas.

Mary Fowler wrapped up the scoring in the 88th minute, nailing a left-footed strike into the bottom corner.

"An outstanding performance," said Philippines coach Alen Stajcic after the match. "I couldn't be any prouder of the way that they fought and battled. The effort was outstanding against a really, truly world-class team."

"To hold them out for 50 minutes, and to concede off a corner and to Sam Kerr -- it really shows the resilience of the team," he added. "(This shows that) we can be a hard team to beat."

The victory gave Australia six points from two matches, after their 18-0 demolition of Indonesia in their first Group B game last Friday. They are also virtually assured of a spot in the knockout phase.

Australia had scored nine goals in each half against Indonesia but found the Philippines a much tougher challenge, even with Stajcic fielding a line-up with four changes from their match against Thailand last Friday.

Fontanilla took the place of Olivia Randle in goal, while Sarina Bolden was in the starting line-up after missing the Thailand game due to COVID-19 protocols. Sara Castaneda and Carleigh Frilles were also in the starting XI. The Philippines missed second-choice 'keeper Inna Palacios and striker Quinley Quezada over injuries and COVID-19 protocols.

Australia enjoyed nearly two-thirds of the possession and took a bevy of corner kicks -- seven in the first half alone. But the Philippines were resolute on defense, and it wasn't until the 50th minute that the Matildas finally broke through.

On offense, the Filipinas had precious few chances, though it was Chandler McDaniel who had the first true goal-scoring opportunity of the game when she broke free in the sixth minute. Her right-footed effort however went wide.

Despite the defeat, it was still quite an impressive performance for the Philippines against the 11th ranked team in the world, which is widely favored to win the tournament. The Filipinas are ranked 64th by FIFA but entered the match with momentum after a historic 1-0 triumph against regional rivals Thailand last Friday.

"(We are) a resilient team," said Stajcic of his side, which he only started coaching in October 2021. "We really showed a lot of good qualities that could push us to a new level."

The Philippines is still on track to qualify for the knockout phase of the AFC Women's Asian Cup. They conclude the group phase on Thursday against Indonesia at the Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex. Kick-off is at 10:00 p.m., Manila time.