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PFL Roundup: Ceres hammers 6 past Meralco; Stallion ends season on a high

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It was a busy Sunday in the Philippines Football League as six teams were scheduled to duel for points in the last day before the final international break of the calendar year.

Two Luzon teams flew south with Meralco-Manila visiting Ceres-Negros and Stallion-Laguna getting to play at Davao against the Aguilas. Global-Cebu, meanwhile, headed north to Vigan where Ilocos United were due to host them once again.

Unfortunately, three matches turned into two as an announcement prior to kickoff was made regarding the postponement of the Ilocos-Global encounter. As a result, only four teams saw action.

Fernando Rodriguez leads Ceres in vengeful thrashing of Meralco


Led by Fernando Rodriguez, Ceres-Negros reminded everyone of their strength Sunday evening at the Panaad Stadium where they demolished Meralco-Manila, 6-0, to boost their chances of securing top spot in the finals series.

The win also appeared to be a revenge job of sorts as Ceres suffered their only loss at home in all competitions this season against the Sparks. Not keen to allow that to happen again, the Busmen set their sights in opening the scoring this time around. Meralco, however, proved early on that they were not there to give their opponents the easy three points.

As a matter of fact, the visitors threatened to replicate their feat back in late August. Two decent attempts from Curt Dizon and Milan Nikolić got Ceres keeper Roland Müller on his toes but with neither going in, his team stays in course to strike first.

And so they did, beginning midway through the first half. Bienve Marañon hammered a long range strike darting towards the back of the net, rendering young Meralco goalkeeper Ace Villanueva helpless in the situation. Not long after, Carli de Murga extended the hosts’ advantage when he instinctively guided the ball off a loose OJ Porteria attempt.

Conceding two quick goals in the first half, the Sparks knew they needed to conjure up a response before halftime. Unfortunately for them, not only did they remain goalless come the interval as they fell deeper into a hole dug by Ceres’ star man Rodriguez. The Spaniard doubled the then-already two-goal lead with two smart finishes by the striker. Both of his first half efforts came from the visiting team’s inability to deal with crosses from both Porteria and Iain Ramsay.

At 4-0 down with 45 minutes remaining, Meralco looked down and out. They did all they could to halt the drubbing at four but were eventually powerless in denying the home side of scoring more. Usual suspects Rodriguez and Marañon completed their respective hattrick and brace to decorate an emphatic win against the league leaders.

For Risto Vidakovic, intensity is key as his boys displayed vast amounts of it in their latest assignment. “We played with high intensity and if we play with high intensity, the result is usually very good,” the former Real Betis defender reckoned.

Approaching the business end of the season, results usually mean much more than the performance. For a team that can pretty much get big results while playing their best football on a regular basis, Ceres is surely tagged by many as the firm favorites for the PFL title. They are mathematically 10 points away from clinching top spot with 15 points still up for grabs. At this rate, the Busmen will really take some stopping.

Late Stallion surge breaks profligate Davao Aguilas’ hearts


As both Davao Aguilas and Stallion-Laguna looked for consolation points in their inaugural PFL campaigns, fans were treated to a thrilling battle between two of the league’s dangerous teams come next season. Stallion went on to take the contest, 2-0, through brilliant strikes from two of their most lethal finishers in the Saturday afternoon encounter at the Davao del Norte Sports Complex.

It marked the 13th time the Mindanao club lost a league game despite their sensational signings coming on board late in the season. This one stung more than the others though as it was a game Davao could have actually won. Led by the talented Harrison Sawyer and the experienced Phil Younghusband, the hosts continuously tested their opponents’ sturdy defense. Having conceded four against Global, the Laguna-based team hoped to do better this time around and so they did as Benito Rosalia Jr. and his mates at the back row held firm.

Their strength in defense proved to be key as it looked to put the burden of winning to the hosts. After a dominant first half, the Aguilas suddenly faded. This is when the away team capitalized. Failing to start an attack, the home team clumsily gave away possession just inside their half. This ultimately set up Gabriele Mascazzini to finish cleanly past Nick O’Donnell.

Ahead by a goal, Stallion once again weathered an expected Davao attacking spree. As time nearly ran out, the visitors secured the result with a Fitch Arboleda strike. A fitting end to what has been a memorable season for Stallion, the first team to complete all their league games.

Provided that JPV won’t pick up more than six points in their last four matches, Ernie Nierras’ men will have a fifth place finish to make do with their strong second half showings in the league. The result also condemned Davao to finishing no better than seventh.

Photo by Stephen Tan/Ceres-Negros FC

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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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Philippines grouped with China, Thailand in 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup

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There is no such thing as an easy road towards glory

The Philippine Women’s National Football Team qualified for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup earlier this year in Tajikistan, excitement arose as to who the Filipinas will face in the big dance this April 6 to 20, 2018 in Jordan.

After a draw was held at the King Hussein bin Talal Convention Center in Jordan, the Philippines will now face host nation Jordan, the People’s Republic of China and regional neighbors Thailand.

Both China and Thailand competed in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup that was held in Canada. China reached the quarterfinals stage while Thailand was eliminated at the group stage. China and Thailand are ranked 13 and 29 respectively in the latest FIFA Women’s World Rankings.

Thailand and the Philippines last faced off in the 2017 SEA Games held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia which the Thais won 3-1.

On the other hand, Jordan is ranked 50 in the current rankings. The last time the Philippines and Jordan faced each other was April 12, 2017 in the Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers where the latter enjoyed a a comfortable 1-5 victory.

All things considered, this is a kind draw as the other group includes South Korea, Australia, Vietnam and Japan.

The target for the Filipinas would undoubtedly be to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup that will be held in France. There are five slots available in this tournament and a fifth place finish will be enough for the Philippines to book a ticket.

The team will be handled by American coach Richard Boon who is the squad’s first male coach since 2013. The Filipinas’ participation in the upcoming tourney will also be the country’s first entry since the 2003 edition.

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Young Philippines squad loses twice in Chinese Taipei tourney

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A national selection mostly composed of UAAP and Philippines Football League players took to the international stage last December 1 to 5 in Chinese Taipei to compete in the Chinese Taipei Football Association International Tournament.

Davao Aguilas mentor Marlon Maro was the designated head coach, while the team was managed by the Mindanao club’s owner Jefferson Cheng.

Stallion Laguna and Davao were the PFL clubs who released players for the team. Laguna sent over Nathanael Alquiros, Fitch Arboleda, Ruben Doctora Jr., Yannick Tuason, and Reynald Villareal. On the other hand, the bulk of the team came from Davao.

The Davao players were Junell Bautista, Jaime Cheng, Justin Cheng, Reymart Cubon, Dylan De Bruycker, Angel Guirado, James Hall, Nick O’Donnell, Simone Rota, James Younghusband, and Phil Younghusband.

Current UAAP stars in the lineup include Julian Clarino, Christian Lapas, and Kintaro Miyagi of the University of the Philippines; Javier Gayoso of the Ateneo de Manila University; and Ray Joyel of the Far Eastern University.

Kaya Makati’s Adam Tull and Thailand League 2 side Angthong United’s Mike Ott rounded up the members of Maro’s team.

All games were held at the Municipal Stadium in Taipei.

Maro’s men were off to a fine start to the competition last December 1 when they defeated Laos 3-1. Phil Younghusband took advantage of an assist from his brother James to open the scoring in the 35th minute.

Come the second half, Guirado overpowered the opposition defense to double the Azkals’ edge, while Miyagi sealed the win afterwards late in the period. With the Philippines’ win all but clinched, Laos managed to score a consolation goal in stoppage time.

Two days later came a rude awakening for the team. Up against host nation Chinese Taipei, the Philippines folded 0-3 after 90 minutes.

Headers from forward Mao Li in the 38th and 62nd minutes powered Chinese Taipei to a commanding two-goal cushion against the Philippines. The Filipinos failed to retaliate and were left to succumb to another header, this time from Ting-Yang Chen, rounded up the 0-3 loss.

The Filipinos’ last day in the competition was on December 5 against East Timor. The fixture was seen as an opportunity for the Filipinos to bounce back.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan. The Filipinos failed to score for the second straight game, and were left to concede a sucker punch late in the game when Da Silva Garcia Silverio Da Resurecio eluded the Philippines’ defense shot past Joyel for the game’s only goal.

The Philippines ended up losing 0-1 to East Timor, in what was arguably its most embarrassing result in this competition.

Ultimately, the team won one game and lost twice in this pocket tournament. It just goes to show that there is still so much to be done in order to beef up talent pools, whether for the main Azkals squad or youth teams.

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