Malditas smother UAE to open Asian Cup qualifying in style

Sara Castañeda (#34)  had a terrific night as the Filipinas opened their Women's Asian Cup qualifiers to a great start. (AFC)
By Kevin Estrada

MANILA-- The Philippine women's national team have emulated the Azkals in opening their Asian Cup qualifying in the most incredible way possible, smothering a hapless United Arab Emirates side to ashes to open their Women's Asian Cup qualifier in a cold, rainy evening in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (midnight Manila time).

Leticia Bautista's women have made a statement in Group A, with a first half brace by debutante Eva Madarang paving the way for a 4-0 rout that get them tied at the top of their group with Jordan on points, although the tournament hosts get the top spot on superior goal difference in the final match of matchday one..

La Salle's midfield combo of Irish Navaja and Sara Castañeda registered their scoring accounts in some kind of fashion that sent a huge message into their qualifiers that also serves as a Women's World Cup qualifier.

It did not take long for the Malditas to made its mark in their return to their competitive scene since last year's AFF Championship, with the Moorpark College standout converted the elder Castañeda's feed with a single flick of the right boot into the right corner past Noura Saif.

Madarang could have been a provider just after the half-hour mark but FEU's Jovelle Sudaria only saw her shot whizzed above the crossbar, but she will not be denied at the stroke of half-time with a beautifully-timed volley off Claire Lim long ball to put them 2-0 up at the break.

The gulf in quality between both sides are evident, and the Filipinas did not let up, with Navaja duly gave them all three points just five minutes after the restart with a cheeky shot to the far post that was assisted by Castañeda.

Navaja then returned the favor in the 54th minute, with her left-footed cross found last UAAP season's best freshman and the La Salle sophomore duly obliged by converting the Filipinas' fourth goal on a one-on-one with Saif.

Coach Buda's wards could not find a subsequent fifth goal for the rest of the match but gave debuts to Zobel and GAU's Anicka Castañeda and Alisha Del Campo, with the former joining her elder sister for the final 22 minutes of the match.

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