(UPDATED) The Philippine women's national football team kickstarted its Olympic qualifying bid with a 4-0 demolition of Pakistan at the Hisor Central Stadium in Tajikistan on Wednesday (Manila time).
Chandler McDaniel highlighted the Filipinas' victory as she scored their fourth goal deep in the second half, in what was her first appearance for the national team since suffering a knee injury in the AFF Women's Asian Cup last year.
With the win, the Philippines take the top spot in Group E of the 2024 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
"I was super excited to be back on the field. Maybe I got too eager [when I entered], but I'm just so happy to be back on the team," McDaniel said afterward. "I couldn't remember the last time I was this happy."
This is McDaniel's third goal in eight caps for the Philippines.
The Filipinas rode on a strong start, piling three points while blanking the Pakistanis in the first 45 minutes.
It was Hali Long who drew first blood for the Philippines, converting a header off Sarina Bolden's cross in the 22nd minute. For Long, the Filipinas co-captain, it was her 17th international goal that came in her 70th cap.
It was Bolden's turn to score in the 25th, when she fired a downward header following a beautiful pass by Eva Madarang.
Madarang then made it a 3-0 cushion for the Filipinas with a screamer in the 29th. It was a fitting effort for Madarang, who made her Philippines debut in April 2017 in Dushanbe, scoring two goals against UAE in an Asian Cup qualifier.
The Pakistanis made crucial adjustments in defense during the second half, keeping the Filipinas scorers at bay.
But McDaniel, who returned from an ACL tear in her right knee, found the back of the net in the 84th minute after missing a couple of chances earlier in the match.
McDaniel came in as a 60th minute substitute for Bolden.
The match also saw the senior team debut of 16-year-old Bella Pasion, who was called up by Alen Stajcic after an impressive stint with the Under-20 team. Kiara Fontanilla got the start as goal-keeper, but the Filipinas' defense was rarely troubled by a Pakistan side that is ranked 161st in the world.
The Philippines will next battle Tajikistan on Saturday, then finish its first-round campaign against Hong Kong on April 11.
Only the group winners in the first round of the qualifiers will advance to the second round, where they will join the seeded teams in Australia, Japan, China, South Korea, and North Korea.