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PFL all set as clubs get license

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After a thorough evaluation of their proposals, the Philippine Football Federation is set to issue licenses to the eight participating club teams that have applied to join the inaugural season of the Philippines Football League.

“The success of the National League is very important for the growth of Philippine football,” PFF president Mariano Araneta said about the development.

“I thank all the stakeholders, including the upcoming sponsors, private club investors, stadium owners, players, and, especially, the fans in keeping faith with us to have this professional football league.”

The commercialization of the league and its financial model was completed with the assistance of Red Card Global — a Singapore-based international sports marketing agency. The firm will also be the exclusive commercial agent of the PFL for the next six years.

“We are proud to have played a part in assisting the PFF in this endeavor,” added Red Card Global executive chairman R. Sasikumar. “It is our hope that this model propels Philippine football to a new level.”

Negotiations between the PFF and the People’s Television Network Inc. are currently on-going. If it pushes through, PTV will be the national broadcasting partner of the league.

On the other hand, the eight teams have nominated their home field, with Ceres-Negros FC choosing the Panaad Park Football Stadium in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental; Global-Cebu FC (University of San Carlos Football Stadium in Cebu City); JPV Marikina FC (Marikina Sports Complex in Marikina); Kaya FC-Makati (University of Makati Football Stadium in Makati); Stallion-Laguna FC (Binan Football Stadium in Laguna), Ilocos United FC (President Elpidio Quirino Stadium in Ilocos Sur); and Davao Aguilas FC (Davao del Norte Sports & Tourism Stadium in Tagum City). The Loyola Meralco Sparks FC are nominating Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila as their homebase.

The league format itself will have a home-and-away, double round-robin style. The Finals series will see the top four teams competing.

Each club will need to sign a franchise agreement with the PFF to complete their entry to the league.

The PFL will formally launch on Thursday, April 20, while the kick-off is scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 29.

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Iain Ramsay hattrick powers Ceres-Negros to inaugural PFL title

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Photo from Stephen Tan/Ceres Media

Ultimately, there was no other local team that deserved to be crowned the 2017 Philippines Football League champions more than Ceres Negros Football Club.

Months after being crowned as the best ASEAN team in the 2017 AFC Cup, Ceres seized the 2017 PFL title with a 4-1 victory over Visayas rivals Global Cebu at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.

Ceres’ championship was as good as sealed right from the get-go, as the Busmen commanded a 3-0 lead by halftime. Iain Ramsay was a force to be reckoned with as he had a hand in all three Negros goals.

Ramsay spotted an expectant Bienvenido Marañon in the Global box, and the latter calmly put the ball past opposing goalie Patrick Deyto to give Ceres a 1-0 lead after just four minutes.

Global tried to retaliate soon enough, and should have scored at least once when Rufo Sanchez was denied by the crossbar and Pika Minegishi’s free kick was saved by Ceres goalie Roland Muller.

Global’s failure to put the ball at the back of the net cost them dearly. A swift counterattack allowed Ramsay to get his first goal in the 20th minute, and the Filipino-Australian made good use of a Junior Muñoz pass to triple Ceres’ lead seven minutes later.

The title was already a formality for Ceres at halftime. Risto Vidakovic and his men were 45 minutes away from sweet redemption, as they had failed to win the 2016 United Football League and 2016 UFL Cup — both won by Global.

Ceres’ icing on the cake came in the 61st minute when Ramsay got his hattrick goal following another clever play by the Busmen. With the result done and dusted, Global got themselves a consolation goal two minutes from time thanks to Darryl Roberts.

Come the final whistle, Ceres proved to be worthy 4-1 victors over a defensively-suspect Global to be the first PFL winners.

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Meralco routs Kaya to salvage bronze

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Photo from FC Meralco-Manila

With pride and a possible 2018 AFC Cup playoff berth at stake, it was the inaugural Philippines Football League regular season-leaders FC Meralco Manila who prevailed.

Three goals, all in the first half, were enough for the home side to walk away with the consolation bronze past Kaya FC-Makati, 3-1, Friday evening at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium.

After absorbing an early pressure from the visitors, the Sparks went to their team offense to break the deadlock, resulting in an early goal.

Skipper Simon Greatwich received a good delivery from outside and headed the ball into the penalty area. Fortunately for the former Azkals midfielder, Joaco Cañas was there to head the ball into the goal for the opener.

Kaya seemed unperturbed by the score and tried to restore parity. Nonetheless, Manila’s defense disrupted deliveries intended primarily for Robert Lopez-Mendy. Moreover, balls deep into the Sparks’ goal went straight to the hands of keeper Ace Villanueva.

It was not long before Meralco doubled their lead, thanks to Azkal Curt Dizon.

Twelve minutes after the Canas goal, the crafty winger — who has taken over the scoring cudgels for Meralco with the departures of Phil and James Younghusband — found himself virtually unmarked on the left flank and fired a cannonball at the edge of the box for the home team’s second of the night.

Dizon then virtually put the game out of reach in the 25th minute, finishing a spectacular free kick with a left-footed strike past Kayo goalie Ref Cuaresma.

Chances were scarce after that onslaught, as Meralco’s organized defending stood its ground, denying a possible goal back from Kaya.

This continued well into the following period, but the insertion of Joven Bedic and Marvin Angeles worked for Kaya at the start of the second half.

With few chances on the build up, the visitors took their opportunity at set pieces. In the 58th minute, Bedic tapped in a low cross past Villanueva to pull one back.

The goal is something Manila head coach Aris Caslib foresaw and lamented. “In the second half, the players were cautious, never wanting what happened in the semifinals to happen again.”

However, what the Sparks lost in offensive fluidity, they still atoned for in defensive consistency. If not for that strong resistance, Kaya could have extended the match.

Instead, the Meralco defense held and it was an impressive win for them to finish an emotional season after the 90 minutes.

“It was the character of the team that showed up. While we struggled in that latter part, we were able to overcome,” Caslib remarked about the Sparks.

For the former national team mentor, it was the squad’s determination to end the season with a win that carried them through. He said, “A big part of this is the players wanted to get over that hump; and they were able to push it in the end.”

FC Meralco Manila might still get a 2018 AFC Cup playoff berth if the PFL champions go on to clinch a 2018 AFC Champions League slot.

The PFL Final between Ceres-Negros FC and Global-Cebu FC will happen on Saturday evening at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City.

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Bienvenido Marañon, Iain Ramsay strike as Ceres knocks out Kaya to reach Finals

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Photo from Ceres Media

It is but fitting to see the 2017 Philippines Football League final contested by one of region’s top teams in Ceres-Negros Football Club.

Following a 1-0 away win against Kaya-Makati last week at the University of Makati field, the Busmen were just 90 minutes away from competing in the first PFL final. And they did so after picking up a 2-1 win in the second leg of the semifinals, Saturday evening at Panaad Stadium.

Bienvenido Marañon provided Ceres with a dream start when he headed Arnie Pasinabo’s cross into goal in the 30th minute to give the home side’s fans something to cheer about.

Marañon’s header not only handed Ceres first blood in the game, 1-0 — it also gave a valuable 2-0 lead on aggregate.

But Kaya refused to give up. Down 0-1 after the first leg, Noel Marcaida’s men knew they had to score an away goal to give themselves a fighting chance of making it to the finals.

The away side’s prayers were answered two minutes before halftime. Miguel Tanton saw his free kick parried away by Ceres goalie Roland Muller, only for the latter to watch as Antonio Ugarte rebounded the ball towards the back of the net.

Ceres and Kaya drew 1-1 at the break, which meant both clubs had much to play for in the next 45 minutes.

The two clubs had multiple opportunities to get that all-important second goal after the break and it was Negros who found a way to break the stalemate thanks to clever individual skill.

Iain Ramsay took advantage of some faulty Kaya defending when he intercepted the ball and looped over Kaya goalie Ref Cuaresma, who could only watch at that moment in the 78th minute.

Kaya failed to find another goal in them to give themselves hope.

Ceres’ 2-1 victory gave them a 3-1 aggregate win over Kaya. The win allows Risto Vidakovic’s men to advance to the PFL finals, where they will meet Visayas neighbors Global Cebu for the right to be crowned champions on December 16 .

Qualification to the 2018 AFC Cup has also been assured for Ceres thanks to this victory, while participation in the 2018 AFC Champions League is also possible if the Bacolod club wins the championship.

On the other hand, Kaya will face Metro Manila rivals Manila Meralco for the third place playoff, also on December 16. Possible qualification for the 2018 AFC Cup is at stake for the winner.

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Rufo Sanchez, Global eliminate Meralco, set up showdown with Ceres

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Eliminated in the 2017 AFC Cup knockout round and lost in the recently concluded 2017 Singapore Cup final, one can be forgiven for thinking that Global Cebu just doesn’t have any gas left in its tank after so many heartbreaks this year.

Come the end of a grueling second leg contest against Meralco Manila, Global showed a champion’s heart to seal a 1-1 draw tonight at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

The draw was enough to see Cebu through to the 2017 Philippines Football League finals as Akbar Nawas’ men prevailed 2-1 last week.

Rufo Sanchez’s 85th minute goal proved to be the moment which brought Global to the promised land.

“I think it was a very hard fought match,” commented Nawas. “Yes we conceded an early goal but that didn’t mean we had to panic. I knew with this team we could always get a goal back.”

Global endured the worst possible start it could have envisioned in the game. Meralco got he goal it needed to calm its nerves after just two minutes of play when the Sparks’ pressing forced Global into its own half which led to Curt Dizon opening the scoring.

From then on, Meralco sought to protect its lead which would have guaranteed them a place in the finals thanks to the away goals rule.

Meralco opted to allow Global to attack in the hopes of springing a counterattack while the latter was comfortable with possession. Cebu could have leveled the game at the 8th minute but Wesley Dos Santos’ header was ruled out due to offside.

The Cebu club kept on pounding on Meralco’s door and got another chance to get that equalizer when Pika Minegishi’s freekick found its way to Rufo whose header hit the crossbar.

Meralco carried a precarious one-goal edge at halftime as Global looked the more likely to score the inevitable second goal in the contest.

A similar tale followed upon the game’s resumption. Meralco as good as parked the but and left itself susceptible for a Global onslaught. Minegishi thought he got Global’s leveler only for Meralco defender Joaquin Cañas to clear the ball at the goalline.

Cebu inched closer to the goal. Meralco goalie Jun Badelic turned away a Darryl Roberts freekick to keep the scores as it was. Come the 85th minute, Global finally got the goal it deserved.

Rufo capitalized on a Meralco misclearance to put the ball past Badelic amd send everything into bedlam. Global players were relieved and in a celebratory mood while the Sparks looked as if they didn’t have any ideas left to force extra time.

Global ended up 1-0 victors and 3-2 winners in aggregate. The Dan Palami-owned club not only secured itself a ticket in for the December 16 final against Ceres Negros, it also booked a seat for the 2018 AFC Champions League or 2018 AFC Cup at the very least.

On the other hand, Meralco will also play next week on December 16 for their third place playoff match against rivals Kaya Makati. The winner of that match could secure possible participation in the 2018 AFC Cup.

“This is all credit to the players and what we’ve trained last week and that information that we’ve given them. But take nothing away from Rufo’s goal and the way the players fought,” concluded Nawas.

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