MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine women's national football team showed off a different facet of their game on Wednesday night as they put seven goals past Singapore in their Group A match in the 2022 AFF Women's Championship.
Over the past seven months, the Filipinas have shown that they can be tenacious defensively and withstand pressure even against higher-ranked teams. But head coach Alen Stajcic has also highlighted the need for the team to improve on the ball, and he was pleased that they showed progress in that front against Singapore.
"We scored some good goals today. One of the parts of our game that we've always said we need to improve is on the ball, and there were large chunks of that game where I thought we were good on the ball," said Stajcic.
Against a Singapore side ranked 132nd in the world, the Filipinas unlocked their midfield, with Jessica Miclat emerging as the Player of the Match as she repeatedly linked up with Tahnai Annis and Malea Cesar on the wings.
The Filipinas went up 2-0 off an Isabella Flanigan chip and an own goal by Singapore in the first 10 minutes. Their third goal was well worked, with Flanigan sending in a cross to Tahnai Annis for a looping header in the 20th minute.
A little over 20 minutes later, Flanigan's touch pass led to Annis' cross, this time with Sarina Bolden rising above her marker to head it in for 4-0.
"Some of the combination play and some of the passages of play with the ball, that's an area of the game we're working hard on," said Stajcic. "I was pleased to see the players execute throughout the whole game. That was the most pleasing part."
The Filipinas also kept a clean sheet, with Inna Palacios -- on her 50th cap -- rarely bothered throughout the match. As proud as he was of their defense, it was his players' relentless attacking that drew applause from Stajcic and the coaching staff.
"I think we restricted them to maybe one or two shots on goal, which is pleasing, and that's an important part of our game. But we've shown that that part of our game is pretty good, over the last six or seven months," the Australian mentor said.
"So to show the other side of the game is really the most pleasing part tonight," he said.
Also on full display was the depth of their squad. Stajcic made seven changes from the line-up that defeated Australia last Monday, retaining only the center-back partnership of Hali Long and Dominique Randle, as well as Miclat in the midfield and Bolden in front.
With the Filipinas ahead, 4-0, at the break, Stajcic subbed out his veteran defenders for Chantelle Maniti and Tara Shelton, while Bolden was replaced by Anicka Castaneda. Annis and Sara Eggesvik were subbed out in the 58th minute for Camille Rodriguez and Carleigh Frilles.
"It's very important in a tournament like this where there's five games in nine days that everyone contributes," Stajcic said. "We've got a big squad, and it's important that everyone in the squad contributes to this tournament, if we wanna come out on top."
"I'm pleased that we could rotate a lot of new players into the team, and we're gonna continue that throughout the week, and ensure that everyone gets an opportunity to put their hand up for a spot in the team, long-term," he added.
Miclat, who played the full 90, praised the work done by their reserves as they ensured that the level of play did not drop. It was Castaneda who completed the scoring in the 69th minute, firing off a rebound after Frilles' initial attempt was blocked.
"I think everyone on the bench is always ready to go in at any moment of the game, and give it their all," said Miclat. "I think there was a little bit of nerves for some of the subs when they got their first minutes."
"But other than that, I think they played really hard and tried to do all the right things, which is what we want. So really good from the subs," she said.
The Filipinas are on track to qualify for the semifinals as they currently lead Group A with six points. They return to action on Friday against Malaysia, which is ranked 85th in the world by FIFA.