By Jonas Terrado
The Philippine women’s football team known as the Malditas leaned on Sara Castaneda’s late equalizer to secure a 1-all draw with Bahrain during their match Monday night at the Republican Central Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Castaneda, who plays for La Salle in the UAAP, leveled the score in the 83rd minute when she scored a volley inside the box, enough for the national women’s team to book a place in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup with one match remaining in the Group A qualifiers.
It was the first time that the country advanced to the Asian Cup since the competition held qualifying stages in 2006. The Philippines had previously played eight times when it was still known as the Asian Women’s Championship.
Malditas coach Buda Bautista guided the team to an impressive run, posting identical 4-0 victories over United Arab Emirates and Iraq followed by an 8-0 rout of Tajikistan.
The nationals are assured of a place in the Asian Cup which will be held in Jordan even if it finishes second in Group A since it is also bracketed with next year’s host.
Jordan is on top of the group with 12 points, winning all four matches, with the Filipinas in second at 10 points.
Their performance in Dushanbe should boost the team’s chances of being included in the Malaysia Southeast Asian Games in August.
Also key in the team’s campaign were Anicka Castaneda, Hali Long, Eva Madarang and Inna Palacios.
The rest of the Malditas are also composed of Alesa Dolino, Irish Navaja, Patricia Tomanon, Hanna Parado, Patrice Impelido, Aira Agustin, Jovelle Sudaria, Alexi Arrita, Joanna Almeda, Hazel Arce, Alish del Campo, Zhyrelle Lou Belluga and Mary Cristine Duran.
The Malditas battle Jordan this afternoon to wrap up their successful campaign in the qualifiers.