Jason Cunliffe’s first hat trick on a world stage propelled Matao to a a 5-0 victory over Bhutan, helping the team advance into the second round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualifications.
Guam needed this win, and to score at least two goals, to be able to advance into the second round. Backed by more than 1,000 screaming boisterous fans and the island skies in their favor over the Guam Football Association National Training Center in Harmon, the Matao delivered.
From the start, Guam kept up the offensive pressure, rocking Bhutan on its heels with three solid attacks on the net in the first two minutes of the game.
“That’s our philosophy, we are not here to take the back foot,” Matao head coach Karl Dodd said. “That’s what we are changing here. In the past, the philosophy for Guam may have been defensive-minded, but we need to be on the front foot, take the game to them and keep constant pressure on them.”
Then at the 23-minute mark, Isiah Lagutang got a cross pass and shot it to the left side of Bhutan goalkeeper Kinzang Gyeltshen into the right corner of the net to place Guam on the scoreboard.
Three minutes later, Cunliffe got his first of three goals. Controlling the ball inside the box, he slipped around Gyeltshen, firing point-blank into the back of the net to make it 2-0 going into the half
“Once we got the first goal, we needed to keep going,” Cunliffe said. “We went into the locker room 2-0. We knew we needed to play smart and not give away a goal.”
In the second half, 51 minutes into the game, Shane Malcolm found the back of the net to make the score 3-0.
Keeping the collective offensive foot on the pedal, Cunliffe added two more goals to make the final 5-0
“Once we got the third goal, we knew we had to keep coming and they (Bhutan) had their heads down. We just kept pushing,” Cunliffe said. “I am happy the boys stepped up and played the way I know we are capable of playing.”