Another weekend means one thing for Philippine football fans: a new set of Philippines Football League matches. This match week provided a lot of excitement, perhaps more than the usual, as there were plenty of subplots developing across the league.
The Younghusband brothers were back in Manila but were obviously donning the colors of Davao Aguilas.
Over in Panaad, the Visayan rivalry between Ceres-Negros and Global-Cebu entered its third chapter following a home win apiece.
Stallion-Laguna put their final four hopes to the test when they met fellow playoff contenders Davao Aguilas. Last but not the least, an anemic JPV-Marikina squad hosted a winless Ilocos United team that remained determined of bagging their first ever three points as a team.
Here’s how the action unfolded:
Late Kennedy Uzoka strike forces inaugural Ilocos United win against slumping JPV-Marikina
Kennedy Uzoka found a late breakthrough goal to help carve Ilocos United’s first ever victory in the PFL. They got it at the expense of JPV-Marikina, a club that once stood on top of the table earlier this season, Saturday afternoon in Biñan, Laguna.
Having been in the bottom of the table since matchday two, it is definitely a relief for Coach Ian Gillan and the rest of the Ilocos United crew. The Brit felt great not just about the result as he was delighted by the performance of his team. “It’s fantastic that we got our first win. I’m happy for the management… There was really a lot of positives from the performance. I can’t emphasize enough how ecstatic I am for the supporters who stuck by us through thick and thin,” he noted.
Playing on the road for the 11th time this season, Ilocos United badly eyed a change in fortunes and got exactly what they were looking for in their 20th match of the season. Things, however, initially didn’t look great for them.
Alen Angeles gave JPV-Marikina, who played their home game at Stallion’s home ground, an early lead. He tucked the ball in off a Kouichi Belgira cross just 12 minutes after kickoff. At that moment, it’s as if Voltes would be able to arrest their skid while Ilocos United’s woes would be prolonged.
Falling a goal down is truly a familiar situation for Ilocos United who lost 15 matches already this season. This time proved to be different than the rest as Ian Gillan and his wards gradually recovered and even turned it around.
It all began with a 32nd minute strike from Angelo Marasigan who did magnificently well to locate the top left corner of the net to level the scores before the break. The visitors went to halftime still level by surviving a fruitless Voltes backlash led by Satoshi Otomo.
A cagey second half followed as neither team wanted to concede a costly second goal. JPV produced most of the chances to break the deadlock with the Ilocanos reliant on veteran Baba Sampana to lead the line at the back. Their resolute defending provided the path towards a sweet triumph as they were not content in leaving Laguna with just another point.
For them to do just that they needed and their goal and for a team that doesn’t average more than two goals in three games, it looked like a tall task. The odds may have been stacked against them but Ilocos United dug deep and found themselves in front with eight minutes ago. Kennedy Uzoka finished a great counter attacking play and made a finish decent enough to punish Nelson Gasic Jr. and company.
While they certainly tried, Voltes failed to salvage a point and have the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first team to lose against Ilocos United. What hurts more is that this would likely bite them back in their pursuit of a playoff spot. If they are to recover from this, they need to get a positive result as soon as possible. A two-week break may just do the trick as JPV have no upcoming matches before the international break.
Second half Kaya-Makati blitz smashes dazzling Stallion-Laguna run
Kaya-Makati turned up the heat in their clash with Stallion-Laguna who swallowed a bitter pill at full time as the men in yellow triumphed against the Laguna side with the score of 4-0 Saturday afternoon at the UMak Football Field.
Prior to the meeting, Stallion-Laguna made a steady rise to the standings, eventually gaining ground on the playoff-chasing pack. Kaya, on the other hand, had an August to forget. The team coached by Noel Marcaida only won one out of their seven games which came from then winless Ilocos United. As the two teams locked horns, playoff implications hung on the balance.
The two teams were inseparable in the first 60 minutes but it was a different story altogether after the hour mark. Scoring only one goal in their last three outings, Kaya’s push for a breakthrough paid dividends and more. In the 61st minute, Jordan Mintah connected with Robert Lopez Mendy to finally unlock Stallion’s a compact defense. The Ghanaian netted against his former employers to cut celebrations in Makati.
It started to unravel there for Stallion-Laguna as an unwanted moment was abruptly succeeded by another. Fresh off the bench, Miguel Tanton made his first appearance since recovering from injury. It did not take him long to make an impact as his audacious attempt right after kickoff breached Stallion’s goal to instantly double Kaya’s advantage.
Mintah deflated the morale of Stallion in the 67th minute as he added another one to make it three. Holding an unassailable lead, Kaya only saw it grow as a clinical finish by Eric Ben Giganto six minutes before time capped off a glorious second half for the 2015 UFL Cup winners.
Perhaps the result was a harsh one for Stallion who remain in sixth and now three points off the playoff spots. They have a home match against Davao Aguilas to look forward to this weekend.
Stephan Schröck shines as Ceres-Negros blanks Global-Cebu anew
Stephan Schröck reminded everyone Sunday afternoon at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod just how good he still is as his 79th minute stunner allowed Ceres-Negros to sink their Visayan rivals Global-Cebu, 1-0.
The former Eintracht Frankfurt and Hoffenheim cog blasted a screamer from around 35 yards, leaving his Azkals teammate Patrick Deyto with no chance of stopping the rocket-like better.
Prior to the Bundesliga veteran’s vicious strike, there was little that separated the hosts from the visitors. The two teams excitingly kept each other on their toes, with the Negrenses just edging the Cebuanos in the number of chances created.
Global suffered a huge blow early in the game when Akbar Nawas was forced to bring Misagh Bahadoran out after the Azkal suffered a horrifying injury from a fall. It came amidst a juggernaut of Ceres-Negros attacks which made it more challenging for them to deal with the skipper’s absence.
Yet it looked to have galvanized Global more than it would have deflated them. Paolo Salenga was on the end of two glorious opportunities, both of which he was unable to convert from. His team would’ve come to rue those chances if Super Herrera’s penalty claim didn’t fall on deaf ears. The defender fell on Wesley dos Santos’ challenge inside the box but the officials didn’t see anything wrong about it.
After a scoreless first half, both teams continued to test each other beginning with Global’s promising start to the second half. Bugas, who took the place of Bahadoran, was on the end of both but he wasn’t able to apply the desired finish past Roland Müller.
On the other side of the pitch, Patrick Deyto had little to do in the first 50 minutes of the game. All that changed in the last 40 as Ceres ignited a series of dangerous attacks. One that nearly resulted in a goal came in the 74th minute when Fernando Rodriguez just diverted a good cross from Schröck a few inches over the bar.
Looking like it would finish a draw and of the goalless kind, both teams knew it would take something really special to win this game. Up step Schröck whose thundering strike found the top corner, enough for Ceres-Negros to pocket a 1-0 win. It’s the third time in as many games in this matchup that the home team has won by this margin.
The result comes at an important time for Negros as they close in on Global with five more games in hand. They are only behind two and remain on track of surpassing league leaders Meralco Manila should they win all those rescheduled matches. Up next for Risto Vidakovic’s men is a home match against overjoyedIlocos United.
Meralco-Manila’s surge continues by keeping Davao Aguilas winless
Even after the high-profile transfer of Younghusband brothers James and Phil, the fortunes of both Meralco-Manila and Davao Aguilas remain similar as the former server up a 2-0 victory at the expense of the latter Saturday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
Meralco remained strong after the Younghusbands’ departure and they showed it on the night against the brothers’ new team. They won four of their seven matches, drawing the other two since their marquee names left for Davao and were successful in prolonging the unbeaten streak to seven with only Global handing them a loss in the post-Younghusbands era.
The first half saw few attempts by both to break the deadlock as keepers Marko Trkulja and Junjun Badelic stayed on top of things. The second period was more frantic as the game gradually opened up. A Matthew Hartmann strike forced a great save from Sparks shot stopper Badelic who stayed sharp unlike his opposite number.
Trkulja couldn’t do a thing to stop Meralco’s Tahj Minniecon from putting the hosts in front as the Australian forward sublimely finished in the 52nd minute. Alvin Sarmiento almost followed suit but he was unfortunate in finding the target.
The Meralco defense anchored by Joaco Cañas did amazingly well to nullify the threat posed by their former teammates. Manila coach Aris Caslib shared after the game, saying: “Our plan was that when Phil and James will get the ball, we would double-team them. That’s why there were so many orange shirts around them whenever they received the ball.”
It proved to be a vital difference as the Aguilas remain without a win despite splurging big in the transfer window. They were still in the match until the 83rd minute when Jake Morallo claimed an insurance goal to tighten Meralco’s a control of top spot.
Another win, Meralco’s sixth, puts them in a good position when they meet rivals Kaya on Saturday. As the race for playoff spots continue, expect the battle between the two Metro Manila clubs to be a feisty one.