Playing a third keeper leading a new defensive unit in three games, the Philippines scored its third straight shutout, this time against Malaysia, 4-0, to solidify its hold of the top spot in Group A with a perfect nine points in three games.
Thailand, which beat Singapore 3-0, is second with seven, while Australia, 4-0 winners over Indonesia is third with four.
Kiara Fontanilla, returning as the starting keeper since the friendly against Ireland in Europe, was barely called to action in her first home game, with Malaysia registering 0 shots at goal. In fact, it was only during a misfired cross that strayed near the goal that she was able to handle the ball.
On the other hand, her opposite number, Nurul Azurin Mazlan had a busy night, keeping off a stready stream of attacks from Quinley Quezada and Tahnai Annis to keep it 0-0.
But 32 minutes in, she was finally beaten, despite showing her quick reactions. Sara Eggesvik, who came in as a 10th-minute sub for the injured Kaya Hawkinson, spotted the keeper off her line and launched a shot from distance. Mazlan tapped off the initial shot and while falling, tapped the ball anew. However, it dropped and bounced twice, the second past the goal-line, making Eggesvik the early candidate for cheekiest goal of the tournament.
Unconvinced that it was a goal, Mazlan stormed to the assistant referee to complain but to no avail.
Eggesvik tried to catch Mazlan unawares in the 36th but had no luck but in the 42nd, the Malditas finally got their second goal. A lovely through ball found Annis, who fired inside the box. Mazlan staved off the initial shot but Katrina Guillou gamely tapped in the rebound.
In the second half, the Malditas only needed three minutes to find their third goal, with Eggesvik spotting an open Quezada, who headed in her 17th goal in 32 caps for the country. Eggesvik would get her second assist in the 73rd, getting the ball just outside the box after a couple of lovely exchanges from the flank. She found an open Annika Castaneda, who scored her second goal off the bench in the tournament.
The Malditas 3-0 start is their best since winning their first two games in the 2019 edition. They were leading in the third match against Thailand, 2-1, before but conceded three goals in the 74th, 75th and 90th to lose, 4-2. The Filipinas could go 4-0 against Indonesia on Sunday before they close out their campaign against Thailand on Tuesday.
Speaking of campaign, there’s an ongoing drive to get more bodies in the stands in the PFLU Facebook group. Posted by Francis Vee, who’s been to Wimbley, the Asian Cup and scores of other events as a nurse based in London, the Buddy System calls for those who can not be in the games, to buy tickets for those who can.
The move may have been a bit late for Friday’s game but could be adopted for Sunday’s match against Indonesia. The initial response got 65 tickets for the bleachers and I hope more will join for the next few games. The bleachers is perfect, these 65—let’s shoot for 600 or 6,000—could sit with the Ultras and they can join them in their songs and dances. The small Utras contingent is a lovely sight to behold on screen and I really hope their number grows.