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Dushanbe: Sara Castañeda’s late equaliser helped the Philippines secure a 1-1 draw with Bahrain on Monday and secure their place at next year’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

With table-topping Jordan assured of a spot at the continental gathering because of their hosting duties, the Southeast Asians struck at the death to ensure a top two finish in Group A and book a ticket to what will be their ninth Asian Cup.

On a day when only a win was going to be enough for Bahrain to have a chance of qualifying for the finals, the West Asians began brightly at Dushanbe’s Republican Central Stadium, with Reem Alhashmi twice denied by Philippines goalkeeper Inna Palacio within the first 35 minutes.

However, the Philippines, who had notched up three successive wins going into the fixture, were always in the game, and went close to breaking the deadlock through Alesa Nazarena Dolino’s effort from a corner and decent strikes from both Claire Lim and Eva Madarang ahead of the break.

It was to be Bahrain though who took the lead on 56 minutes, Noora Sami Al Dossary firing home from within the penalty area to set up the potential for a major upset.

Desperate to restore parity, the Philippines poured forward and their pressure eventually paid dividends eight minutes from time when Sara Castañeda scored to help seal her nation’s richly deserved place at the 2018 finals.


Philippines head coach Letecia Bautista:
“It was a crazy match. It was like playing for the title. We wanted this more so we were able to bounce back and I am just thankful for the win. I am speechless. At half-time I said to my players that they needed to find some composure. Bahrain also really wanted the slot and we just had to remember how we played in the last three games.”


Bahrain head coach Khaled Mohamed Harban:
“We studied the Philippines team very carefully ahead of today’s match. We figured out their strengths and how to play against them. We tried our best.”


Photos: Tajikistan Football Federation

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