The Football Ferns looked to secure another three points on home soil as they took on the Philippines, who were desperate to take victory themselves to keep their hopes of progression alive. New Zealand narrowly beat Norway last Thursday with Hannah Wilkinson scoring the winner, while the Philippines had a poor start to their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup – losing 2-0 to Switzerland last Friday.
With the two sides needing victory for different reasons, the scene was set for a thriller in Wellington.
NZL: Esson; Riley, Bowen, Stott, Bott; Hassett, Percival, Steinmetz, Riley; Hand, Wilkinson
PHI: O McDaniel; Beard, Coward, Long; Harrison, Eggesvik, Sawicki, Quezada, Barker; Guillou, Bolden
New Zealand started the match as they meant to end it, with goals and victory to their name. The co-hosts pushed right from kick-off to find an early goal to set the tone for the match, dominating possession and provided constant pressure on the World Cup debutants. However, with each goalscoring opportunity came a poor pass in the final third to nullify their threat. Although, the Philippines still struggled to gain a foothold with possession falling apart quickly to only provide a break from the New Zealand pressure.
The Filipinas’ gameplan remained the same though as they looked to sit deep, soak up the pressure from the hosts and attack on the counter. As New Zealand’s attacking momentum slowed, their poor passing found them giving away possession further into their own half. It allowed the visitors to win possession and force fouls from the hosts high up the pitch – and this is when the Philippines pounced.
After winning a free-kick in the New Zealand half, the Philippines delivered a deep ball into the box which the hosts failed to adequately clear. Sara Eggesvik then picked up the pieces on the right wing as she delivered another looping ball into the box – and this time it found Sarina Bolden, who rose highest to head it home from close range. With the ball heading straight for her, Esson was unable to get proper control of it as she found herself falling over the line, with the ball joining her. It allowed Bolden to score her country’s first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup goal in the 24th minute – giving the Philippines the lead against the run of play.
The Philippines looked a changed side after the opening goal as their confidence and momentum grew. Retaining the ball and keeping possession looked seemingly easy for them, as their stunned hosts tried to respond. New Zealand continued to create chances including a low dangerous cross into the Philippines box, however no attacking player could find good contact and score the equaliser. It became the story of New Zealand’s attacking threat, as each attempt never managed to materialise into a real danger. It was a story they looked to change in the second half.
New Zealand made two changes at the break bringing off Riley and Hassett for Chance and Longo respectively. They started the second half as they had started the first, looking for a different outcome at the end of sustained pressure. This time they looked dangerous – and provided some huge scares for the Philippines as they looked to defend their slim lead. New Zealand’s striking duo provided the scares with Hannah Wilkinson finding open space in the 58th minute, only to head it narrowly over the crossbar.
Only six minutes later, Hand provided another moment of concern for the Philippines as she hit McDaniel’s right post after receiving an outstanding ball from Chance on the left wing. It showed yet another warning side of the hosts’ quality, as they searched for that elusive equaliser. The pressure continued as they ramped up their attacking momentum – and it finally found their desired result minutes later.
Causing problems again, Wilkinson collected the ball on the left side of the box. She drove it to the edge before sending a dummy on Philippine captain Hali Long – giving her space to send in a looping ball for Jacqui Hand to head it into the net from close range. McDaniel had no chance as the hosts found their equaliser – or so they thought.
After a VAR review, the goal was disallowed for Wilkinson being offside in the build-up. With the call being as close at it gets, the visitors started to wonder if they were destined for victory with history beckoning.
The hosts continued to ramp up the pressure in search of an equaliser, but it soon became the same story from the first half. Passing quality deteriorated as time on the clock ticked away. Pressure continued from the hosts, and they thought they had surely equalised in final minutes of the match. Jale found space to volley it from close range, but McDaniel provided a stunning save to keep her country’s hopes of victory alive.
It would turn out to be a crucial moment as it helped secure the first ever victory for Philippines at a Women’s World Cup. Sarina Bolden’s header proved to be the difference in a match dominated by New Zealand – but the Football Ferns couldn’t find the necessary breakthrough required to win. It leaves Group A wide open going into the final match on Sunday, with almost every team having a chance of progression.