Momentum continues for Philippine women’s football on the international stage as the Girls U-15 team won all its elimination games in the AFF U-15 Girls Championship held in Vientiane, Laos: 2-0 over Indonesia, 3-0 over Cambodia, and 3-0 over Singapore.
The 23-strong squad opened its campaign last Tuesday, May 9 with a win against Indonesia.
During that affair, the Philippines went into attack mode almost instantly firing off shot after shot at the Indonesian goal. It took twenty minutes for the girls to get its first goal for the ASEAN tournament by way of Viviana Cera. Thirteen minutes later the score doubled after her free kick was headed into goal by Katelyn Alexander. Cera was eventually named the player of the match.
The second game proved decisive where a win would seal the Philippines’ place in the semifinal with just three opponents in their group.
Tension eased off when Alexander’s free kick put the Philippines ahead of Cambodia in the 14th minute. This allowed the girls to gain confidence under the lights of the majestic new KM16 Stadium, materializing in Maria Lazo’s unopposed run in the 40th minute en route to the game’s second goal. Anya Fuentes put the icing on the cake when she brushed aside the last defender who was bigger than her to put her name on the score sheet after 66 minutes. Alexander was later credited as the game’s best performer.
In the final group match versus Singapore, while assured of a place in the last four the team aimed to finish the elimination round as group leaders that will face the other group’s second best team.
The Philippines were off to a comfortable start after Arianna Le Page hit early with a sixth minute header. It took a while before the girls found their second goal with another header this time by Myria Garcia securing it in the 62nd minute. The team notched their third goal six minutes later when Cera fired a long-range beauty after being almost tackled, which became a perfect excuse to celebrate with a now adored team selfie pose. Le Page was named the top match player afterwards.
The squad is comprised of players born no earlier than 2002 and are based locally and abroad with many players returning from last year’s productive U-14 team that collected silver in the AFC U-14 Girls Regional Championship, also held in Laos.
Previously that team’s assistant coach Marielle Benitez now helms the team as its head coach. She is assisted by then head coach Joyce Landagan, Patrice Impelido who has captained the senior team in Tajikistan last month, goalkeeper coach Eleonora Dillera with physiotherapist Mae Pongase and team manager Lalaine Sarmiento rounding out the staff.
“So far I’m very happy with our performances throughout eliminations,” Benitez reflected, ahead of the tournament’s crucial stage. “Our goal was to make it to the semifinals and to the finals. I know the girls can still play better. You’d see glimpses of brilliance from our play and there are still a few lapses that need to be worked on. [But] I’m happy that in every match we continue to improve.
“Overall, the girls have been very good. You really see the team effort, they’re happy when they play. When they’re happy and relaxed their game comes out.”
The girls will be heading for the semifinal not only undefeated but without having conceded any goals props to the brilliant defensive efforts of keepers Rizamae Ugbaniel, Jessica Pido, Darryle Tangco and defenders like Gabriela Collatos who has captained two games. There in the knockout match they will meet Myanmar on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (Philippine time).
Benitez is wary of the team’s next foes especially with their in-form striker Myat Noe Khin who scored a hat-trick in their last elimination game but thinks her wards will do well if they just tighten the defense and execute the offensive gameplan.
“Malaysia [their last opponent, a winless team] has scored against them which proves that they are a team that can be scored on,” Benitez furthered.
“The girls now they’re just excited to start playing again for the semifinals. In terms of wanting [the win] you can ask any of the girls here and they’ll tell you that they want it bad.”
Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory
2017 AFC ASEAN Zone Champions Ceres-Negros banked on their poise and composure from the spot as they knocked out Myanmar’s Shan United via a 4-3 penalty shootout (1-1 after extra time) triumph, Tuesday evening at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
The Negrenses punched their ticket to Brisbane, Australia after emerging the better spotkick takers. Four Busmen were on target, while two of their Shan Warriors counterparts fluffed their lines.
The two domestic champions were inseparable after 120 minutes, with the hosts holding their own against the Philippine champions. Ceres-Negros looked the more dominant of the two teams. However, they couldn’t make the advantage count where it mattered, as they failed to breach the sturdy Shan United defense inside the first two regulation halves.
The visitors were visibly more comfortable in the first half, but with the scores staying level at the break, the less-fancied Myanmar champions eventually found their footing in the encounter. While there were several half-chances from either side to open the scoring, both defenses remained defiant en route to unwanted extra time.
“It was a tough game. We weren’t ready to play 120 minutes because we only had four training sessions before the game but everytime we wear this jersey, we represent Ceres, we represent Bacolod, we represent the Philippines, so we have to give our best,” Ceres’ defender Carli de Murga elaborated to the Inquirer after the match. The Asian Football season has yet to start, and with both teams not too busy with pre-season preparations, rust and fatigue in a demanding affair were evident.
Come extra time, Ceres-Negros took the initiative when Stephan Schröck’s deflected effort went past the helpless Thiha Si Thu just three minutes into the first half.
Nonetheless, the hosts refused to go down without a fight, and their resilience was rewarded later in the opening half. Substitute Patrick Asare found the back of the net to restore parity in Yangon.
Another 15 minutes of goalless action took place in the second half as both teams looked more cautious, perhaps with the collective aim of avoiding a costly error or two. Among all the chances, Schröck’s in the 114th minute may have proved to be the closest to changing the scores, as his attempt shaved the post.
Shan United took to the spot first, where Asare made his penalty attempt count. Nay Lin Tun also made his, but not before teammate Chizoba smashed his attempt over Toni Doblas’ goal.
While the hosts squandered a shot, the visitors remained calm in front of a hostile Myanmar crowd. De Murga, Schröck and Mike Ott nailed their turns, with Marañon also not missing a vital kick from 12 yards.
It set up William Biassi Nyakwe, the man credited with the own goal when he deflected Schröck’s opener, with the chance to prolong his team’s campaign in the AFC Champions League. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t atone for his earlier mistake, as his attempt soared high and wide — much to the delight of the visiting team from Bacolod, the Philippines.
The reward for Ceres-Negros is a trip to Queensland, Australia, where they will seek to do one better than compatriots Global-Cebu. The 2016 Philippine champions also played against the Brisbane Roar, who dealt them a staggering 6-0 hammering this time last year. The match will be held at the Suncorp Stadium on January 23.
As for Shan United, a spot in the AFC Cup Group Stage awaits them and they may not have seen the last of Ceres-Negros just yet. If the Negrenses lose to either Brisbane Roar or Tianjin Quanjian, they will be reacquainted with the Burmese champions in Group F.
Brazilian football legend Zico to visit Manila
One of the best to ever play the Beautiful Game is coming to the Philippines. Zico, who electrified the footballing world in the ’70s and ’80s, is slated to visit Manila on the weekend of January 27.
The Brazilian, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, is considered one of the best footballers in the world during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Zico starred for the Brazilian national team, scoring 48 goals in 71 appearances for the Selecao. In 1999, the attacking midfielder came 8th in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote, and in 2004 was named in FIFA’s list of the world’s greatest living players.
Zico played for legendary Brazilian club Flamengo and also for the Italian Serie A team Udinese. He finished his playing career suiting up for Kashima Antlers in the J-League, the top tier of Japanese football, leading them to an unlikely runner-up finish.
The 64-year-old also had a successful managerial career, leading Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Greek team Olympiacos, and CSKA Moscow to titles. Zico was also in charge of the Japanese national team when they won the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. Because of that accomplishment, Zico is one of the most beloved football figures in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Seven Seas Properties, a company that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market, is bringing the football icon here.
“We are delighted to welcome Zico to the Philippines. I’m sure he will give a big boost to the growing football scene here,” says Seven Seas Properties President Yukihiro Nishimura.
Zico will attend a CSR event with young footballers from underprivileged communities on Saturday, January 27. The following day, Sunday January 28, he will lead a football clinic for elite young players and coaches in the McKinley Hill stadium in Taguig. Football fans and media are welcome to watch this event, which kicks off at 2:00 pm. Admission is free.
Zico in Manila is also made possible by Otsuka – Solar Philippines, Inter Sports Partners, AgriNurture, and Primex.
Jake Vicen saves Saint Benilde’s season, forces winner-take-all
For most of the match, College of Saint Benilde Blazers’ goalkeeper Jake Vicen was under pressure. However, that just set up his heroics in the end.
The third-year custodian came up big with two huge denials in the shootout, as the Blazers won 4-2 after the match ended at 3-3 after 120 minutes against the Arellano University Chiefs, Friday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Applying the same game plan and using their speed advantage, the Chiefs pummeled the Blazers’ defense, plucking a chance at the set piece. The free kick went for naught, but the succeeding sequence turned into the go-ahead goal.
In the seventh minute, the ball bounced in front of Arellano captain Cymun Sanquilos, who blasted the ball into the top corner past the outstretched arms of Jake Vicen.
The rest of the first period was a defensive clinic from the Season 91 champions, as Saint Benilde were left scouring for opportunities to level the match. The green-shirts simply waited for that moment, as their possession improved and their attacking aggressiveness increased in the following period.
At the hour mark, Dean Ebarle received a low cross inside the penalty area, and finding himself unmarked, slotted the ball into the bag for the equalizer.
Both teams tried to break the deadlock once more, only neither team could not barge through the opposing defense in the remaining minutes of the second half and the whole of extra time.
Thus, the match has to be decided on kicks from the penalty spot.
Vicen and Jericho Desalisa denied the second kickers setting up a dramatic finish, to which the former turned his focus, “Sabi ko sa coaches, ‘Kukunin ko ‘to. Yung shoot out di naturalist hangga’t ‘di pumipito yung ref.”
Patrick Bernarte missed miserably wide as Vicen was on point, setting up long-time teammate Moiselle Alforque for the winning spot kick.
Head coach Marlon Maro was pleased on how the Blazers had responded in this game. As for the sudden-death match, he commented, “May the best team win.”
That third and deciding match is scheduled on Wednesday also at 6:00pm.
Arellano draws first blood in extra-time classic against Benilde
Big time players come up with big time plays in the biggest stage
NCAA Season 91 Most Valuable Player Jumbel Guinabang has scored twice. But no goal was as huge as his second in extra time, propelling the Arellano University Chiefs to take Game 1 of the NCAA Seaosn 93 Seniors Football Finals from the College of Saint Benilde Blazers, 3-2, Friday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Right from the get-go, the action was intense, as both teams plucked two goals. Guinabang received a good long delivery and swiftly took the opening goal just three minutes from kick off. However, the lead did not last long, as Daniel Liozo equalized just seconds after for Saint Benilde.
In the 26th minute, the Chiefs once more intercepted a Benildean pass in the midfield before Charles Gamutan made a speedy run to the opponent’s goal for the second go-ahead shot past Jake Vicen.
Saint Benilde skipper Renz Tulayba might have taken four minutes to put the match back on level terms, but it was a similarly well-executed counterattack that knotted the score at two apiece.
Despite the score line, Arellano head coach Ravelo Saluria was pleased with his boys performance especially in this period expressing, “Happy ako. Sinunod nung mga bata yung game plan lalo na nung first half.”
Gambling on positional changes in the second half, the Season 91 kings almost paid for it. The Blazers pounced on opportunities to take the upper hand in the following period, with returning Dean Ebarle and semis hero Wilmer Lopes knocking on the blue-shirts’ door. However, the forwards were not able to convert these chances, as Arellano keeper Jericho Desalisa kept himself busy.
The situation continued well into the extra time before Saint Benilde almost ran away with the match winner. Carmelo Genco fired from the top of the penalty box, but Desalisa did well enough to parry the shot for a corner kick. The Blazers froze after that missed opportunity on the set piece, as an errant pass was once more picked up by the Chiefs
Defender Patrick Bernarte found himself with the ball and sped to Vicen’s goal. The wing back found Guinabang up front and the former MVP wasted no time to slot the ball into the goal for the clincher with just three minutes left in the extension.
“Nagtataka ko kung bakit maraming nag-cramps,” Saluria expressed. Nonetheless, it was the determination of the former champs that prevailed to snag the victory. “Puso lang talaga nung mga bata.”
Arellano (1-0) will shoot for their second title in three years when they clash with Benilde (0-1) again on Monday, January 15, at 6pm.
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