MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The Philippine women's national football team cannot stop making history.
The Filipinas opened their campaign in the 2022 AFF Women's Championship in stunning fashion on Monday night, defeating a youthful Australian side 1-0 in wet, rainy conditions at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Sarina Bolden put the Filipinas ahead at the hour-mark, converting a header off a long throw-in by Eva Madarang that crept past the outstretched arms of Australian goal-keeper Jada Mathyssen-Whyman.
This marks the first time in their history that the Filipinas have beaten Australia. They lost to a full-strength Matildas squad, 4-0, in the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 last February. For the AFF tournament, Australia called up a younger group including several Under-23 players, but also two senior players in Matilda McNamara and Larissa Crummer.
Despite their youth, Philippines coach Alen Stajcic branded the Matildas as favorites for the tournament, and afterward could not contain his pride at what he called an "amazing result" for the Filipinas.
After their victory, Stajcic was all praises for his team, calling it an "amazing result" for the Filipinas.
"The performance from the players was first class," said the coach. "To beat a team that's been ranked in the Top 10 for the last ten years is just amazing."
"The heart and spirit in the team is amazing," he added. "From a coaching point of view, I couldn't be any prouder."
The Filipinas took charge in the second half, with Bolden threatening just two minutes after the restart though her header was off the mark. The breakthrough game in the 60th minute, with the Filipinas winning possession and Madarang's heave finding Bolden.
"It's great to see how far we've come," said Bolden, who noted that the last time they played at the Rizal Memorial was in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, where they lost to Myanmar in the bronze medal match.
The Filipinas averted disaster in the 70th minute, when Australia's Sheridan Gallagher was denied from close range by Olivia McDaniel. The rebound went to Mackenzie Hawkesby, but McDaniel displayed incredible reflexes in blocking her potential equalizer as well.
They could have gone 2-0 up in the 77th minute, when Quinley Quezada played Bolden through. However, this time Bolden's curling effort went above the bar for an Australia goal-kick. Another attempt by substitute Sara Eggesvik in the 86th minute was controlled by Mathyssen-Whyman.
Australia's final chance came off a free kick in added time, but Hawkesby's effort was blocked by the Filipinas' wall and eventually controlled by the home team's defense.
When the final whistle blew, the Filipinas were met with a standing ovation by the crowd of 1,405 fans at the Rizal Memorial, who had the opportunity to watch the team in person for the first time since they secured qualification to next year's FIFA Women's World Cup as well as after winning a bronze medal in the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi.
"This is a good building block," said Stajcic, who nonetheless stressed that the Filipinas must be quick to move on, as they return to action on Friday against Singapore.
"We'll enjoy the victory tonight, but tomorrow, we're back to business," he said.
An eventful first half saw the Filipinas snuff out several chances for the Matildas, with Princess Ibini failing to connect cleanly on a header that could have put them ahead in the 33rd minute.
McDaniel was called to action in the 41st, as she tipped yet another shot by the Matildas over the bar; the ensuing corner kick was well taken care of by the Philippines' defense. The Filipinas also had their chances: they won the first corner kick of the game in the 38th, but Jessica Miclat's service into the box was defended well by the taller Australians.
In the first game of the double-header at the Rizal Memorial, Singapore and Malaysia figured in a goalless draw.
At the Binan Football Stadium, Thailand crushed Indonesia, 4-0.
Thailand and the Philippines are currently tied at the top of Group A with three points.