Sarina Bolden let the screaming do the talking as the Malditas shock Asia with a comeback win over the hosts. Mia Montayre/Philippine Football Federation
By Kevin Estrada
MANILA -- WE ARE BACK.
Displaying their fighting heart, the Philippines' return to the Women's Asian Cup after a 15-year exile was a stunning one, bucking a first-half deficit to silence tournament hosts Jordan in their group A opener in Amman Friday evening (early Saturday morning Manila time).
With a much retooled side, the Malditas turned up the heat in the second half to shock the continent by downing the more favored home side who took an early lead, avenging last year's loss to the West Asian side in their final qualifier in Dushanbe.
The win was the first for the country in the tournament since 2003, when they sank Guam by the same scoreline to end their campaign in Thailand, as they inch closer to their Women's World Cup aspirations.
|The Malditas celebrate at full time with what could be the biggest result in Filipina football history. Mia Montayre/Philippine Football Federation|
Rabah Benlarbi's gamble on going all out massive rewards in more ways than one, as the Frenchman played an attacking 4-3-3 with Sarina Bolden up front and Kearra Bastes-Jones took the start between the sticks instead of the veteran Inna Palacios, as Hali Long the lone holdover from their Tajikistan qualifiers to retain her place in the starting eleven.
Unfazed by the partisan crowd at the Amman International Stadium, the Malditas took the hosts head on and were almost rewarded eleven minutes in, when Tahnai Annis and Caitlyn Kreutz scared Salma Ghazal inside the box with two efforts that went off target.
However, Jordan drew first blood four minutes later, with Maysa Jbarah poked the hosts ahead after a routine ball by Stephanie Al-Naber finds the country's top goalscorer and the centre-forward made no mistake in poking the ball to the far right side of Bastes-Jones.
Despite being behind, the Malditas stuck to its guns and went on the offensive as they came close to equalize before half-time, with Marisa Park's 37th minute free kick attempt was stopped by Salma's mitts as Sara Castañeda came on for Kreutz to stimulate Benlarbi's attacking plans.
Their enterprising play amidst all odds was rewarded just six minutes after the restart, with Park's free kick was headed by Yasmeen Khair into their own net to level matters.
Jordan tried to go ahead by pouncing on another gaffe by Bastes-Jones but substitute Luna Al-Masri was caught by the flag for offside
Bolden, the Loyola Marymount junior, duly shoved the Malditas ahead for good in the 76th minute, latching on a Park long ball and scores on a one-on-one chance against Ghazal.
Then the defence led by Hali Long and Ryley Bugay kept the door shut on Jordan the rest of the way to pick up all the three points for the ASEAN outsiders who blew their group wide open, setting their sights on their Bataan Day tiff with China who opened the proceedings with a 4-0 rout of Thailand.
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