Taiwan on Sunday punched their ticket for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup with a 2-0 victory over Bahrain in the final match of the qualifiers at Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Manama, making a return to the continental showpiece for the first time in 14 years.
The triumph in the curtain-raiser booked Taiwan’s slot in the tournament for the first time since 2008, as they prepare to join 10 other nations, as well as hosts India, in matches in Navi Mumbai and Pune from Jan. 20 to Feb. 6 next year.
Sunday’s match started with Taiwan working hard to wear down Bahrain’s defense, with waves of attacks in the first half. Bahrain managed to halt the offensive, making several crucial saves.
Photo courtesy of CTFA
After the break, Taiwan turned up the heat, recording the first goal of the match, when in the 61st minute a free-kick by forward Lai Li-chin flew over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Huda Ali Salman and into the back of the net.
A veteran of Taiwan’s 2008 qualifying campaign, it was Lai’s third international goal in the past week, after she on Monday last week scored back-to-back goals against Laos.
Taiwan further increased their lead to 2-0 in the 77th minute, after forward Chen Yen-ping nodded in a loose ball that deflected off the crossbar after Salman blocked an initial penalty area shot by defender Pan Yen-shin.
It was Chen’s second international goal over the past week after opening the scoring in the match against Laos.
After the match, Taiwan head coach Kazuo Echigo thanked the players for their hard work in qualifying for the tournament.
The opponents in the finals would be stronger teams than those they downed in the qualifiers, he said, adding that strengthening and correcting weaknesses remain priorities.
The draw for the tournament’s group stage would be held in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, when the 12 teams would be split into three groups.
In addition to Taiwan and India, next year’s tournament is to include Australia, China, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Taiwan’s women’s national team are three-time Asian Cup champions, winning the title in 1977, 1979 and 1981.
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