After spectacular win, Stajcic looks for more improvement

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Filipinas women’s football team in the AFF Women’s Championship. –PILIPINASWNFT

Coach Alen Stajcic offered to focus on improvements rather than savor the Philippines’ emphatic win over Singapore on Wednesday in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Championship.

“I still think we’ve got a long way to go to get to where I want to get to,” he said.

The Filipinas went on a goalscoring spree and defeated Singapore, 7-0, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, a result that put the host nation on top of Group A with six points through two games.

Isabella Flanigan’s opener, an own goal, followed by one each from Tahnai Annis and Sarina Bolden in the first half along with Sara Eggesvik, Kaya Hawkinson and Anicka Castañeda finding the mark after halftime provided plenty of delight for the home supporters following a gritty 1-0 win over Australia two nights earlier.

Stajcic was impressed with how the goals came, but said the performance against one of the perceived lightweights in the group stage won’t cut it once the Filipinas face contenders late in the regional championship.

“Although some of the goals were tremendous and world-class, the passages of plays and combination of plays are probably the areas of the game that we have to work on the most,” he said.

The Philippines is favored to emerge victorious in the next two games against Malaysia on Friday and Indonesia on Sunday, before facing a tough Thailand side in the final match of the group stage on July 12.

Thailand is second in the table with four points after battling Australia to a 2-2 draw earlier in the day at the Rizal Memorial pitch. Malaysia moved to third place at two points after a 1-1 tie against Indonesia while Australia, Singapore and Indonesia are level with a point apiece.

The top two teams in the group advance to the semifinals, and the Filipinas seem to be on the right track after two match days despite Stajcic’s observations.

“We showed that we’re a good defensive team, but with the ball, I think we’ve got the most room for improvement. And tonight, we showed some glimpses of that,” said Stajcic.

Flanigan’s volley nine minutes into the contest launched the Filipinas’ assault on the Lionesses, who hardly put up a challenge the rest of the way.

Singapore conceded an own goal seconds after Flanigan’s opener when defender Ernie Sontaril tried to clear Annis’ cross to no avail. Wearing the captain’s armband, Annis later made it 3-0 in the 19th minute with a header.

She also set up the fourth goal before halftime, delivering a cross that led to a free header by Bolden, who supplied the winner over Australia the previous match.

Eggesvik and Hawkinson registered their first-ever goals wearing the Philippine shirt in the 46th and 55th minutes before Castañeda joined the scoring tally in the 68th, rebounding a deflected attempt by Carleigh Frilles.

Dominating possession, the Philippines had an easier time on the defensive side which resulted in veteran goalkeeper Inna Palacios, who appeared for the 50th time with the national team, getting a clean sheet.


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