Top four finish for now By Olmin Leyba

The Philippine Star
Top four finish for now  By Olmin Leyba
The Philippines’ Quinley Quezada (20) and South Korea’s Lim Seonjoo fight for the ball during their AFC Women’s Cup semifinal match.

MANILA, Philippines — South Korea pulled the plug on the Philippines’ bid to go all the way in the AFC Women’s Cup, dealing the Filipinas a 2-0 semifinal defeat yesterday in Pune, India.

Veteran Cho So Hyun headed in an early goal then Son Hwa-yeon delivered a second strike as the Taegeuk Ladies ended the Pinay booters’ historic campaign and clinched the first seat in Sunday’s gold-medal match.

The Koreans will face the winner of the other Final Four showdown between defending champion Japan and China.

Though out of the title picture, the Filipinas could count this stint as a roaring success.

With their breakthrough semis appearance, the lady booters posted their best finish in Asia’s showpiece and more importantly, punched a milestone ticket to next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Three days after scoring a WWC-clinching 4-3 victory over Chinese-Taipei, the Filipinas tried to extend their magical run against world No. 18 Korea. But they found the superior Koreans too good, a portent of what’s to come in the world meet.

The Taegeuk Ladies needed only four minutes after kickoff to draw first blood with Tottenham Hotspur mainstay Cho soaring to direct Kim Hye-ri’s cross off a corner into the back of the net.

Son doubled the lead at the 34th minute as she sent her right-footed shot from close-range past Pinay goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel.

The Philippines kept the Koreans scoreless in the second half but failed to connect on its own chances.

Overall, Korea had the overwhelming edge in possession at 74.7 percent with seven out of 15 shots on target. The Filipinas conjured nine attempts all game, all off-target.

Philippine coach Alen Stajcic and striker Sarina Bolden beamed with pride as the squad took the exit.

“They fought to the death,” Stajcic said of his gritty charges.

“We made a name for ourselves. Philippines. You’re going to remember this team and you’re gonna see us in the World Cup. So don’t forget about us, ‘coz we’re coming back,” said Bolden.

Australian mentor Stajcic, who used to call the shots for his country, is on a high in helping the ambitious Philippines reach its goal.

“This is probably the experience of my coaching career...To get to this level, it’s such a remarkable effort. It’s really emotional watching them play to the last second of the game,” he said.


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