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Army begin UFL Cup with 4-1 rout of Bright Star



Joven Benitez, Luisito Brillantes, and Lauren Bedua got on the scoresheet as Army kicked off the UFL Cup 2015 Group Stage action by hammering non-league outfit Bright Star FC, 4-1, earlier this afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Three of the four goals scored by the UFL Division I squad came in response of an equalizer scored by Bright Star with under 30 minutes to go.

It was back and forth play in the first five minutes with neither team able to break past opposing defenses in the said period. Army got the ball rolling when Brillantes’ corner reached Eduardo Gempisaw Jr. whose shot was blocked. The ball then fell to the path of Benitez only to see his shot saved by the Bright Star goalkeeper Valentino Tolentino. Not long after, Bright Star had two decent looks on goal. The first one came at the sixth minute when Alessandro Esposito’s shot was saved comfortably by Wilson Muñoz. A minute later, the other opportunity was presented to the non-league side courtesy of Mohamed Camara but the Army keeper got to read the direction of his shot.

Soon, Army started to control the game’s tempo with the help of short, accurate passing that prevented their foes from initiating any quick counterattacks. Romano Vestal found Benitez whom he fed the ball with a through ball, but Tolentino parried the ball away for a corner. Nine minutes into the match, Brillantes got to shoot the ball but could not keep it down. Nestorio Margarse Jr. joined the attacking barrage but his free kick was cleared away from play. The Armed Forces’ perseverance was unwavering and for that they earned a deserved reward at the 13th minute of play. Vestal crossed the ball to Brillantes, who instinctively slammed the ball into the back of the net to put Army ahead by a goal.

Bright Star attempted to respond right away, but Mathurin Yao and Bile Stephane Bkou could not find a way past Muñoz. On the other side, the trailing team appreciated custodian Tolentino’s efforts of keeping out Brillantes’ shots to sustain the slim deficit they were facing. Another guy they were thankful for was Guy Elovna, who intercepted Vestal’s pass to the unmarked Brillantes inside the box at the 24th minute. A water break was ordered at the next minute for both teams’ players to rehydrate in the midst of the blistering Manila heat.

When play resumed, Army continued to dominate the match by drilling chance after chance against Bright Star. If not for Tolentino’s good positioning, Army may have scored more goals before the interval. Amongst the several futile chances Army had came a gem of a chance for Bright Star to level the score at halftime. Moustapha Diarra saw Yao racing down the right flank but the deflected pass came with too much bounce, which led to an overhit strike from Yao. At halftime, Army held a precarious 1-0 lead.

Both teams played the opening ten minutes of the second half quite defensively. Bright Star had more touches to the ball but were often derailed in the final third by Army’s pesky defending. Alessandro Esposito forced a save from Muñoz at the 55th minute while teammate Diarra dribbled well to dance around the Army defense six minutes later, only for his effort to sail wide. After Diarra’s miscue, Bright Star’s spirits were lifted by Adakole Adams. The substitute used pace to gain space inside the box before slotting the ball past Muñoz to level the score with 28 minutes plus added time remaining.

Just when it seemed that Bright Star will play for all the points en route to the final whistle, Army suddenly had a scoring spree that buried Adams’ equalizer. Just a minute after the game-tying goal, Benitez punished the Bright Star defense for committing a defensive lapse by easily putting the ball into the unguarded net to regain Army’s lead. At the 72nd minute, Benitez scored again. This time around, he scored a more difficult one by looping the ball from outside the box into the back of the net to make it 3-1. With only two minutes to go, Army fortified their goal difference with Bedua completing an attacking sequence involving Erwin Silvestre and Elmo Pabilona Jr. down the left wing.

Army Coach Ricky Cain was delighted with the way his new-look team played at the start of the UFL Cup. “Happy kami dahil ngayon lang ako nakabuo na All-Filipino ‘yung team,” Cain stated proudly. He disclosed that the team recently dropped their Korean players prior to the start of the group stage. In their next matches, Cain is looking towards improving the finishing of his players, who may have scored more than four goals against their opponents.

Bright Star FC’s Liberian Coach Pierre Collins, meanwhile, expressed dismay but points no blame to anyone but himself. “There were also mistakes on my part. I came in late so I had players I’m not supposed to use [playing],” he shared. Another concern Collins is looking to sort out is the chemistry of his defenders. “Our defenders are not working together. They did not each understand each other,” he observed. In spite of the outcome of their first game, Collins remains optimistic of his team’s chances to progress into the quarter finals. “I believe that we’ll be qualifying,” he assured.

Army will look to make it two wins in a row when they square off current UFL Division I leaders Ceres La Salle FC on Tuesday at 6:15 PM. After that game, Bright Star will hope to grab win number one when they take on Green Archers United at 8:30 PM. Both games will be played, as all UFL games are, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

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Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory



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2017 AFC ASEAN Zone Champions Ceres-Negros banked on their poise and composure from the spot as they knocked out Myanmar’s Shan United via a 4-3 penalty shootout (1-1 after extra time) triumph, Tuesday evening at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

The Negrenses punched their ticket to Brisbane, Australia after emerging the better spotkick takers. Four Busmen were on target, while two of their Shan Warriors counterparts fluffed their lines.

The two domestic champions were inseparable after 120 minutes, with the hosts holding their own against the Philippine champions. Ceres-Negros looked the more dominant of the two teams. However, they couldn’t make the advantage count where it mattered, as they failed to breach the sturdy Shan United defense inside the first two regulation halves.

The visitors were visibly more comfortable in the first half, but with the scores staying level at the break, the less-fancied Myanmar champions eventually found their footing in the encounter. While there were several half-chances from either side to open the scoring, both defenses remained defiant en route to unwanted extra time.

“It was a tough game. We weren’t ready to play 120 minutes because we only had four training sessions before the game but everytime we wear this jersey, we represent Ceres, we represent Bacolod, we represent the Philippines, so we have to give our best,” Ceres’ defender Carli de Murga elaborated to the Inquirer after the match. The Asian Football season has yet to start, and with both teams not too busy with pre-season preparations, rust and fatigue in a demanding affair were evident.

Come extra time, Ceres-Negros took the initiative when Stephan Schröck’s deflected effort went past the helpless Thiha Si Thu just three minutes into the first half.

Nonetheless, the hosts refused to go down without a fight, and their resilience was rewarded later in the opening half. Substitute Patrick Asare found the back of the net to restore parity in Yangon.

Another 15 minutes of goalless action took place in the second half as both teams looked more cautious, perhaps with the collective aim of avoiding a costly error or two. Among all the chances, Schröck’s in the 114th minute may have proved to be the closest to changing the scores, as his attempt shaved the post.

Shan United took to the spot first, where Asare made his penalty attempt count. Nay Lin Tun also made his, but not before teammate Chizoba smashed his attempt over Toni Doblas’ goal.

While the hosts squandered a shot, the visitors remained calm in front of a hostile Myanmar crowd. De Murga, Schröck and Mike Ott nailed their turns, with Marañon also not missing a vital kick from 12 yards.

It set up William Biassi Nyakwe, the man credited with the own goal when he deflected Schröck’s opener, with the chance to prolong his team’s campaign in the AFC Champions League. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t atone for his earlier mistake, as his attempt soared high and wide — much to the delight of the visiting team from Bacolod, the Philippines.

The reward for Ceres-Negros is a trip to Queensland, Australia, where they will seek to do one better than compatriots Global-Cebu. The 2016 Philippine champions also played against the Brisbane Roar, who dealt them a staggering 6-0 hammering this time last year. The match will be held at the Suncorp Stadium on January 23.

As for Shan United, a spot in the AFC Cup Group Stage awaits them and they may not have seen the last of Ceres-Negros just yet. If the Negrenses lose to either Brisbane Roar or Tianjin Quanjian, they will be reacquainted with the Burmese champions in Group F.

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Abu Tratter plans to work his way to 2023 by continuing to do ‘the dirty work’



Abu Tratter may have missed the jersey-giving ceremony that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas held for the 23 for 2023 cadets last Monday but he made sure to help out when the current batch needed him the most.

After helping the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers win the Sinulog Cup in Cebu a week ago, the 6-foot-7 Filipino-American did not hesitate to heed Gilas’ call, as they were undermanned for their second session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“I think it’s just an honor to put on this jersey, to be able to represent our country, to possibly represent our country in the future. It’s an honor,” shared the Laguna-native.

The 25-year old, who just celebrated his birthday last January 9, admitted that he was in awe of the talent inside the Meralco Gym. Like a fan, he wanted to take a few photo ops with the senior team’s Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo.

“Actually, at first I was just shocked to see June Mar and Gabe, just to be able to be in the midst of them,” gushed the former DLSU Green Archer, who will suit-up for Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League. “I even asked them for a picture, and hopefully they’ll still give me one.

“It’s just humbling, definitely.”

However, the work has only began for Tratter. With five years to go until the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the two-time UAAP champion plans to continue to do what he does best — be the same scrapper that he is and hopefully catch the eye of Gilas’ brass.

“I think just doing the dirty work, of course. Giving whatever the team needs, rebound or any steals, any thing a dirty player would need to pick up on,” he said.

“That’s how it is, garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back.”

Moreover, he will continue answering the call when Gilas needs him, as he himself is learning a lot from being surrounded by the country’s topflight cagers.

“Whenever I can. I want to be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games.”

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Terrence Romeo invited to join Pilipinas 3×3 for World Cup



Stronger than ever

Scoring sensation Terrence Romeo has been invited by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to join the Philippine team in the upcoming FIBA 3X3 World Cup, according to Philippine Star columnist Quinito Henson.

Romeo, who is currently out due to a right knee injury, has been in rehabilitation and is expected to miss the entire Philippine Cup campaign of the Globalport Batang Pier and the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Baka sa second conference na ko makabalik kasi talagang gusto ko malakas ako pagbalik ko,” the 25-year-old shared during Chooks-to-Go Live last January 2.

SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios personally met with the 6-foot guard, inviting him to be part of the Philippine team.

Romeo has plenty of 3×3 basketball experience under his belt.

Back in 2014, Romeo was part of the Manila West 3×3 team during the Manila Masters. He was adjudged as the tournament Most Valuable Player.

The 2018 3X3 World Cup will take place from June 8-12 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

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Red Spikers extinguish Blazers for second win



Shaking off a forgettable outing against the Perpetual Help Altas last January 11, the San Beda College Red Spikers vented their ire on defending champions College of Saint Benilde Blazers in four sets, 25-15, 25-16, 23-25, 26-24, and claimed their second win of the season, Friday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

“Sabi ng coaches kalimutan na yung talo,” shared captain Lorenze Santos of what transpired after that match.

So, in this game, the San Beda team poured on what they worked hard for to regain momentum. “Binuhos po namin lahat ng ginawa namin sa training [ngayon].”

After tight starts in all the first two sets, the Mendiola-based side pulled away to register the seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead.

Nonetheless, summoning the heart of a champion and led by seniors Isaah Arda and Jethro Orian, the reigning champions pulled off gritty runs to snag the third set and making a tussle of the fourth.

Ultimately, Adrian Viray virtually ended the match with a vicious serve, which the Blazers failed to convert.

The prolific outside hitter finished with 17 points, 11 coming from attacks and five off blocks. Former skipper Mark Encino also registered 17 markers.

The Red Spikers (2-1) will face the Mapua University, also at 2-1, on Friday, January 19.

Orian was such a presence at the net, ending up with 20 points for the Taft-based squad.

The defending champions Blazers (2-1) will try to bounce back later that day against San Sebastian College (0-3).

The Scores:

SBC 3 – Viray 17, Enciso 17, Santos 11, Patenio 7, Amagan 7, Desuyo 3, Zabala 0, Genobaten 0, Manliclic 0, Casin L.

CSB 1 – Orian 20, Arda 18, Bacani 6, Basilan 4, Bautista 4, Magsino 2, Martinez 0, Garcia 0, San Miguel 0, Saldavia 0, Dy L.

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