Jessika Cowart (26) of the Philippines scores a goal during their championship match against Thailand for the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Championship held at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on July 17, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Members of the Philippine Women's National Football Team celebrate after winning the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women's Championship final against Thailand in Manila on July 17, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) History was made Sunday night at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
The Philippine women's national football team capped a run for the ages by defeating Thailand, 3-0, in the gold medal match of the 2022 AFF Women's Championship to win their first ever international trophy.
It's the latest achievement by a team that has already made history several times this year, starting in February when they secured a berth to next year's FIFA Women's World Cup.
This time around, they triumphed on home soil, with thousands of singing, flag-waving fans urging the Filipinas to victory.
The hosts got their revenge against Thailand, which beat them 1-0 in the group stage -- their lone loss of the competition. It was a fitting finish to a tournament that saw the Filipinas stun Australia in their first match, then clobber defending champion Vietnam in the semifinals to advance to their first ever finals appearance.
"We're so happy to do this for our country, and to do it home. We couldn't be happier to bring this championship here -- the first one ever," said Philippines captain Tahnai Annis after the match. "We're just so proud of everyone, and so happy that we could do it on home soil."
The Filipinas got a dream start when Jessica Cowart headed in Tahnai Annis' delivery from a corner kick in the ninth minute. It was a measure of redemption for the defender, who missed a golden chance when the PWNFT lost to Thailand in the group stages.
Katrina Guillou doubled the lead in the 20th minute, after Jaclyn Sawicki retained the possession for the Filipinas following a Thailand clearance of an Annis free kick. Sawicki got the ball to Sarina Bolden, whose flick was met by Guillou and put into the back of the net while Thailand 'keeper Chotmanee Thongmongkol was caught flat-flooted.
The Filipinas could have padded their lead but a header by Bolden in the 36th was off target. Thailand dominated possession in the latter stages of the first half, but they had little to show for it and struggled to reach the final third.
Quinley Quezada missed a chance to add to the Filipinas' tally some three minutes after the restart, as her strike pinged off the post and was cleared by Thailand's defense.
Thailand pressed forward repeatedly in the second half, but their attack lacked any bite and Olivia McDaniel was rarely troubled in the Philippine goal.
The match got testy at moments, with the referees booking Thailand's Ploychompoo Somnuek for a push on Eva Madarang while she was being subbed out for Malea Cesar in the 60th. Cowart, the goal-scorer, was also booked in the 62nd for a foul at the edge of the box, much to the dismay of the fans who made sure to let the game officials know their thoughts.
Cooler heads prevailed and when play resumed, Thailand again tested the Filipinas' defense but found themselves rebuffed. The closest they got was in the 74th minute, when Chatchawan Rodthong tried to fire a low cross but was immediately blocked by McDaniel.
Fittingly, it was Bolden who put the finishing touches on the victory, heading in a Sara Eggesvik corner kick in the 90th minute to send the Rizal Memorial crowd into a frenzy. It was the eighth goal of the tournament for Bolden, who grabbed a brace just last Friday in their semifinal against Vietnam.
"It's hard to know what you're gonna expect, but we knew what we expected out of ourselves and out of our game plan and everything like that. We can't know what the other teams are gonna do, but we had expectations set very high for ourselves, and I think we really met them," Annis said of their performance.
When the final whistle blew, the crowd of 8,257 fans erupted into celebration, singing "Campeones, campeones" as the Filipinas spilled onto the pitch. McDaniel dropped to her knees before being mobbed by her teammates, as the Filipinas celebrated the first major trophy in their history.
The AFF championship was the highlight of a stunning seven-month run for the Filipinas that saw them qualify for the World Cup in February then win a bronze medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in May.
They lost to both Vietnam and Thailand in the SEA Games, but avenged those results in glorious fashion in front of their home fans.
Earlier in the day, Myanmar stunned Vietnam, 4-3, to claim the bronze medal.