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Kaya completes comeback against Stallion through penalties; books Finals berth

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After trailing in the match, Top-seed Kaya FC retaliated against Stallion FC in extra time, and pulled through in the penalty shootout, 5-4, to advance to the 2015 United Football League (UFL) Cup final, Tuesday evening, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

Stallion went on attack early as they peppered Nick O’Donnell with attempts. At the sixth minute, Simone Rota fired from long range and straight to opposing keeper O’Donnell. Two minutes later, Kaya’s Alfred Osei fouled Jordan Mintah inside the box, conceding a penalty kick. Rota stepped up to the spot, but his shot hit the crossbar and out. The offensive pressure of Stallion only ended when a Mintah run on the right flank was stifled by Junior Muñoz.

Kaya tried to break the deadlock at the 14th minute when Kenshiro Daniels blasted an attempt from the edge of the box that sailed wide. Daniels had another crack at goal four minutes after, but the ball went to the crossbar. Stallion then turned up their defensive intensity and denied Daniels’ pass to Tishan Hanley that ended the spell from Kaya.

From there, the visitors took control the rest of the match as they continuously sent balls into their attacking third. At the half-hour mark, Mintah delivered a lovely ball into the box, but O’Donnell plucked the ball out of harm’s way. The prolific striker was then blocked by the defense in the following play. At the 34th minute, Kaya defender Patrick Delon tackled Stallion captain Ruben Doctora, and was called for a foul. Rota fired the consequent free kick through the gap on the wall and past O’Donnell to score the breakthrough goal.

Stallion pushed for another goal in the final minutes of the first half through the efforts of Mintah and Nathan Alquiros. Nonetheless, Kaya stood their ground to trail by just a goal at half-time.

The home side went to attack at the start of the second half to overhaul the deficit. OJ Porteria, Daniels, and Alfred Osei made several runs towards the Stallion goal, but were snuffed by the defense. At the 53rd minute, the visitor’s custodian Johann Noetzel got a cross from Miguel Tanton that was intended for Daniels to stop the momentum of Kaya.

Stallion then attempted to score in the ensuing play. Substitute Shirmar Felongco doubled his team’s lead at the 54th minute, after firing off the ball past O’Donnell.

Kaya pulled out all stops to cut the deficit in the following minutes. After a buildup from the flanks, Stallion was called for a foul. Daniels’ ensuing corner kick found Delon, who tried to head it into the back of the net. Osei chipped the ball past the goal line to trim the gap to 1, 1-2. Sensing momentum, the yellow-shirts continually broke the opposing team’s backline. Three minutes from the Osei goal, Daniels had another run into the box, but David Basa was there to stop the attempt. Unfortunately for Basa, the ball bounced to his arm and he was whistled for a handball. Porteria tapped the resulting spot kick past Noetzel to level the match after an hour.

Kaya wrestled for control of the game in the next few minutes in search for the go-ahead goal. After several runs into their attacking third, the home team was rewarded a free kick at the 69th minute. Veteran Chris Greatwich sent a low cross into the box, but no one was there for the finish. Four minutes after this play, Stallion did well to clear out a Jovin Bedic cross to Daniels. To make it worse for the black-shirts, Louis Kaole was sent off due to a dangerous tackle on Porteria.

Despite having a man disadvantage, the visitors had a good run on the flanks in the following play. Rota intercepted a pass in the midfield and sent the ball towards Mintah. The Ghanaian perfectly timed his delivery back to Rota inside the box. The Azkal slid and tried to shoot the ball, but O’Donnell charged at him. Rota went down on a heap and was later rushed to the hospital on a suspected rib injury.

It was a back-and-forth action in the last minutes for both sides. Neither team broke the back of the net as the full-time came at 2-all and the match went into extra time.

Kaya had the first chance to take the lead in the extra period. At the 92nd minute, Hanley found himself unmarked inside the box, but he hesitated to take the shot and passed it back to Porteria. Stallion then tried their own attack in the following play. Two minutes after Hanley’s missed chance, Emmanuel Mbata fired from inside and was blocked by Osei for a corner kick. The visitors, however, could not convert on the ensuing corner kick from Alquiros.

The aggression turned up a notch in search of that breakthrough goal. At the 99th minute, Mintah had another run into O’Donnell’s goal and Osei tackled him before he got to shoot. The first goal scorer for Kaya was sent off on account of his second yellow as a consequence of that foul, which also conceded a free kick to Stallion. Skipper Doctora blasted the ball, but the shot went straight to the crossbar and out. The visitors, however, reclaimed the lead at the following play. Alquiros was denied by the defense, but Stallion was able to get the rebound. The ball eventually found it way to Mintah, who towered over the defense to head it in and score.

Stallion’s lead did not last long, Kaya immediately tied the match once more. Bedic sent a timely cross into the penalty area and found Diego Barrera, who headed the ball past Noetzel for the equalizer. The first half of extra time still ended on a stalemate, 3-all.

Both teams tried to gain the upperhand in the second half of extra time, but to no avail. Both squads’ defense denied any chance for their opposition to score. Noetzel intercepted shots from Greatwich, Bedic, and Louis Clark; while O’Donnell retrieved attempts from the free kicks from Mintah and Alquiros. Holding a strong defensive stance, the extra time finished with the teams knotting at 3, and the game went to a penalty shootout.

At the penalty shootout, Stallion had the first crack at the goal. Former Azkal Ian Araneta was denied by O’Donnell, who read his attempt well. The save turned out to be the turning point as the following takers slotted their spot kicks easily. Alquiros, Bervic Italia, Basa, and Doctora scored for the visitors past O’Donnell. On the other hand, Porteria, Team Captain Aly Borromeo, Daniels, and Barrera breached Noetzel’s goal line for Kaya. On his first game back from injury, Louis Clark shook off the jitters and calmly flicked the ball into the back of the net for his team’s fifth of the shootout, and secured Kaya’s trip to the Final.

Kaya Team Manager Paul Tolentino shared that he was relieved that his wards pulled through in their first victory against Stallion since 2012. “[It] was stressful for us. They sure made it hard for us to get that first win [sic]. We’re prepared to work. The message to the boys is that they need to sacrifice, so credit to the boys [on the win],” he said. When asked how monumental the win was, Tolentino remarked that, “It’s all about that AFC Cup spot. And the only way to get that spot is by winning this tournament.”

The gigantic Cup Final will be contested by Kaya FC and Ceres-La Salle FC in the main match on Friday, August 28. If Kaya wins the Cup against the League Champions, they will get that coveted AFC Cup playoff berth. On the other hand, Stallion FC will battle Loyola Meralco Sparks FC in the third-place playoff on the same date.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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Raymond Almazan ejected in return

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Photo by PBA Images

It was supposed to be a redemption game for Raymond Almazan after he was benched last Wednesday for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters against the Phoenix Fuel Masters, for disciplinary reasons. But unfortunately, it went the the other way around.

The six-foot-eight center was ejected in the Elasto Painters’ match versus Kia Picanto on Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome, following a near-brawl that took place between him and opposing big man Eric Camson.

The incident took place with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter, with the Picanto ahead 34-31. Almazan and Camson were both inside the paint looking for position to grab the missed three-pointer of Jeremy King.

Things then went chippy afterwards, as Camson elbowed Almazan. It did not sit well with the latter and he retaliated, leading to the near-brawl that saw both players swing their arms at each other.

Almazan and Camson had to be separated by their teammates and officials. Moments later, both of them were whistled for a flagrant foul penalty two and were ordered to leave the playing court for good.

Almazan finished with six points and three rebounds in six minutes and 10 seconds of action, while Camson exited the bout with 10 markers, five rebounds, and four assists in over 16 minutes of playing time.

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily-scrutinized Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena in a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started ever since they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running buddy.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed such incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena, whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal with, the 24-year-old shared that he approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he had scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao had called Chris Ross the “N” word, which had caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nag-flare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

However, Guiao denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he had felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also directed at Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it has been a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now gone down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees an urgent need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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