Defending champions Japan, aiming for a hat-trick of titles, controlled proceedings from kick off. Riko Ueki began where she had left off in the quarters and came close to scoring a couple of times. She finally got her fourth goal of the tournament from a team effort in the 26th minute when Hiyata Miyazawa’s cross found an unmarked Ueki in the box whose glancing header was unstoppable.
But the decks changed in the second half with China making three substitutions. The Japanese defence was caught napping just a minute after the change of ends as China got an equaliser when a cross from second-half substitute Xiao Yuyi was poached in by Chengsu Wu.
With Japan failing to finish off the game in some close changes, China gained more control and made sure the match went into extra-time. After hitting the crossbar early after regulation time, it was Ueki again who beat the Chinese offside track to guide a long free-kick into the net in 103rd minute. However, in the 119th minute, Shanshan reclaimed parity by converting with a flick of the back heel.
With both teams missing their first shot in the shootout and Yu Zhu saving Japan’s last penalty, it was left to Shanshan to send in their last effort and keep her team on course for a recos-extending ninth cintinental title.
In the early kickoff, the difference in ranking between the teams was evident as the world No. 18 Koreans began applying pressure on the No. 64 Philippines’ defence from word go. And they were rewarded as early as in the 4th minute when a deep corner from Kim Hye-ri was met by a firm header from player-of-the-match Cho So-hyun that went in between the post and the hands of Philippines goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel.
While McDaniel should have put in more effort and kept the ball out from giving Korea the breakthrough, she was at the end of a couple of important saves soon after as the Koreans kept dominating proceedings with their one-touch play, and pacey runs. They doubled their lead in the 34th minute when Choo Hyo-joo’s cross after a piercing run found an unmarked Son Hwa-yeon, who tapped it into the goal.
Philippines coach Alen Stajcic made three changes at half-time but all his tactics had little effect as South Korean goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi was hardly tested. The Filipinos were also undone by the strain of their long quarters clash that went into sudden death and a hot day in Pune.
It was, however, harder for the Koreans to find opportunities or convert them as Dominique Randle and Hali Long kept the Philippines central defence compact although their counter-attacks did not yield any chance for a comeback.
While the Koreans will aim for a first continental title after clinching their first-ever final berth, Philippines will also return upbeat by their maiden qualification for World Cup.
Vietnam beat Thailand: First-half goals from Huynh Nhu and Thai Thi Thao sealed victory for Vietnam against Thailand at D Y Patil Stadium and a win against Chinese Taipei on Sunday will confirm Vietnam’s maiden FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance.