The CNMI Women’s National Team threatened to embarrass Mongolia at its home soil, shutting down the host in the first half of their game in the EAFF E-1 Football Championships 2019 Round 1 before eventually losing the match, 2-3, last Monday at the Mongolian Football Federation Stadium in Ulan Bator.
Gianna Griffin and Jeralyn Castillo delivered the early goals for the CNMI to scare Mongolia, which later avoided the upset axe of the visiting team with Namuunaa Narmandakh coming off the bench and scoring a pair in the second half, including the dagger that saved the day for his squad. Tsolmon Ganchimeg, also a reliever, recorded the other goal for Mongolia.
Before rallying, Mongolia was caught off guard by the CNMI’s twin goals in the first half. Griffin won the battle for a long high ball and eluded her defender as she dribbled to the right side of the field. Two Mongolia defenders then chased Griffin, who continued to move forward, forcing goalie Tsendjav Erdenebileg to step out of her spot and try to pick up the ball. The Mongolia keeper, however, was a little too late, as Griffin had already let go a left kick and the shot went in, giving the CNMI the lead in the 11th minute.
Castillo then made it a 2-0 advantage 10 minutes later, after she received a pass from Gillian Villagomez, dribbled, and passed through two Mongolia defenders. The midfielder was then met by another Mongolia defender, while Erdenebileg was the last line on defense, as again the goalie gambled on stepping into the play and grabbing the ball, but failed anew, allowing Castillo to hit the board.
The Luem Khen Koo-coached CNMI crew went on to keep the upper hand at the break and left Mongolia thinking how it could fight back in the second half.
Unfortunately for the Commonwealth team, Mongolia managed to rally behind Narmandakh, whose first goal came in the 51st minute when it kicked the ball high to the right corner and CNMI goalie Carla Ballesteros leaped to her left, but missed the catch.
Mongolia’s second goal was then recorded 10 minutes later with Ganchimeg at the right place at the right time for the second follow-up. Mongolia had a corner kick and Ballesteros managed to push the ball out and did it again in the rebound off Sarangarav Otgonbaatar’s attempt. However, third time was the charm for Mongolia, as Ganchimeg stayed in the play and kicked the ball back in to tie the match.
The exciting game remained in a deadlock until Mongolia got the breaks in the 82nd minute. The winning play started with Narmandakh beating Sharmaine Francisco to the ball at the left side of the field and dribbling forward, eluding the CNMI forward and defender Krizel Tuazon. Narmandakh then momentarily lost possession, as CNMI midfielder Britanny Wally and the former’s teammate Unral Tuvshinjargal stepped inside the box. Soon, Ballesteros joined the scramble for the ball and fell down the pitch along with Wally and Tuvshinjargal, leaving Narmandakh alone to recover possession and hit the dagger, which Tuazon tried to stop, as she slid and used her left leg to deflect the shot.
Meanwhile, after nearly beating Mongolia, the CNMI’s female players will return to the pitch today and try again to make it to the win column when they take on Macau in the 2pm match (4pm Saipan time). Macau lost to Guam last Monday, 0-5.
“I hope we can play better in the next two games and beat Macau. I am also excited to play against Guam,” said Griffin. “It’s an honor to represent the CNMI and score our team’s first goal.”