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PFL Roundup: Ceres overcomes Kaya in Panaad thriller; Davao notches first win

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The first match week of the Philippines Football League for the month of October provided different kinds of thrill to the fans of the country’s elite club tournament. All eight teams were in action, braving the rainy weekend that made playing conditions a little bit tougher than usual. Here’s how the action unfolded from around the league:

10-man Ceres-Negros leaves it late to sink Kaya-Makati


A late Fernando Rodriguez goal capped off a pulsating 90 minutes of football at the Panaad Stadium last Saturday as the Spaniard’s team, Ceres-Negros, survived Kaya-Makati’s challenge by registering a vital 3-2 triumph.

With plenty of games in hand, Ceres-Negros look on track to pace the league once they complete the rescheduled outings. The match against Kaya, however, proved that there aren’t easy games in the league. The visitors were targeting a shock result and acted quickly on it from the get go.

Not more than three minutes passed when Noel Marcaida’s men broke the deadlock. Usual suspects Robert Lopez Mendy and Jordan Mintah connived to score the first goal of the match. The former’s cross was expertly nodded by his partner-in-crime, signalling the start of an exhilarating showdown.

Not used to falling behind at home, Ceres answered with a swift turnaround. Kaya’s advantage only lasted for seven minutes as Bienvenido Marañon quickly replied to Mintah’s effort with a fine finish from skipper Arnie Pasinabo’s cross. With momentum, the hosts grabbed a go-ahead goal in the 15th minute when Rodriguez’ superb strike from a free kick left Kaya keeper Ref Cuaresma stranded.

There would be no goals before the break as both defenses eventually got their bearings on a rough pitch caused by the rainy weather. As the score remained the same at the interval, the visitors were more motivated to attack a strong but not invincible Ceres defense.

Kaya got what they were looking for 10 minutes after the restart, albeit a bit controversially. In what was supposedly a routine save by Roland Müller, Kaya got to squeeze the ball in courtesy of Alfred Osei. It looked like the Ceres goalkeeper already had the ball in his hands before a collision with Mintah made him lose possession of the ball. Osei was the most alert man in the vicinity and the defender made no mistake from close range.

Ceres’ coach Risto Vidakovic felt aggrieved by the decision and was sent to the stands for voicing his displeasure. Defender Jeffrey Christiaens followed him approaching full time when his duty foul on a counter attack led to a dismissal as he acquired a second billable offense on the night. Nevertheless, this did not deter the hosts who continued to dominate the action.

If anything, it inspired them as they won themselves a penalty five minutes before time. Fortunately for Kaya, Cuaresma stopped Marañon’s attempt. At that point, a draw looks destined between the two teams. The Makati club’s luck ran out right at the end though as Rodriguez delivered a confident finish to the delight of the Negrenses in attendance.

The gap between the two teams is now down to three points as a result with Ceres still having seven less games played. In addition, they are just seven points behind league leaders Meralco-Manila who have played five more than the Negrenses. Kaya stays in second place although if Ceres can maintain their form, it might not be the case for long.

Davao Aguilas taste first win against bottom side Ilocos United


After 19 tries, Davao Aguilas finally barged into the win column as they blanked fellow strugglers Ilocos United, 2-0, at the Davao del Norte Sports Complex yesterday afternoon. A goal at either side of the break sealed their first ever three points in the PFL.

Staple goalscorer Harrison Sawyer delivered the first goal of the afternoon 25 minutes in. That’s the fourth time the Australian has found the back of the net this season, proving that he is an I integral part of his team’s attack.

Ilocos failed to do much against the much-improved Aguilas who have recruited recognized stars in Younghusband brothers, Matthew Hartmann, Simone Rota, and Jason de Jong. Their previous meetings, both ending at 1-1, took place prior to Davao’s transfer window splurge.

The gulf in class was evident on in the pitch as Davao made their dominance count. A goal from James Younghusband 24 minutes before time made sure there won’t be any comeback of sorts from the Ilocanos, whose sole win in the PFL came from a come-from-behind triumph against JPV.

“We are happy with the win. I guess the week-long break gave us a lot of elbow room to do the adjustments, and develop our style of play. I am very satisfied that in the end, we ended up winning,” newly-minted Coach Marlon Maro stated after the match. He also thanked the fans for their unrelenting support, expressing delight that they were able to reward their loyalty with a victory.

Davao has nine more games in the league and is still mathematically in the race for the playoff spots. They need to start a winning streak first, however, before looking at the bigger picture. IIlocos, meanwhile, are now four points behind the Aguilas and are dead last with only six games to play.

Global-Cebu stays solid at home after seeing through JPV-Marikina


Only two teams managed to leave the Queen City of the South with a point and the trend stayed that way following JPV-Marikina’s visit as Global-Cebu bagged a 2-1 home win in what was a crucial encounter between the two playoff aspirants Sunday evening at the Cebu City Sports Complex.

Paolo Salenga gave the hosts an early lead from a set piece just four minutes in. It’s a situation Global hasn’t been unfamiliar with as they are yet to trail in fortress Cebu. Chances became few and far in between since then as both teams took time to manage the challenge at hand.

Despite going a goal down, JPV looked undeterred as they kept on finding ways to test the Cebuanos on defense. While they did not produce an equalizer, Voltes kept Global busier than the hosts would like at the back and as far as keeping the margin low is concerned, it was job well done for the visiting team.

They do have goalkeeper Felipe Tripulca Jr. to thank as his stop on Pika Minegishi’s shot preserved the one-goal deficit entering halftime. Yet there was nothing the JPV keeper could do in the second half to stop the Philippines international from claiming a crucial second goal for Global-Cebu. Minegishi cushioned his side’s advantage – a luxury they needed come full time – with a crafty move that bamboozled the JPV back line.

Global didn’t get to enjoy the increased lead for long after JPV’s J Baguioro pulled one back for Marikina. His tap in off a Patrick Deyto save made things a bit more uncomfortable for Global, who needed a win to strengthen their grip on one of the playoff spots.

Gladly for Global, the advantage was rarely threatened after the last goal. However, their inability in finding an insurance goal made for an interesting closing minutes of the match. At the end of what had been a tight affair, Global held on to record their sixth home win of the season.

It allowed them to keep a one-point gap with third seeded Ceres and more importantly stretch the breathing space they need from Stallion. The Laguna club has nine points less than Cebu’s 37 with only five games remaining for Armando Heria’s team.

Meralco-Manila prevents back-to-back losses after goalless stalemate with Stallion-Laguna


Following a tight derby defeat the last time around, Meralco-Manila targeted to bounce back after the international break against the resurgent Stallion-Laguna team. Their plans fell through, however, as it was Stallion-Laguna who had better potential in taking all the points. Fortunately for the Sparks, the game ended without a goal at the Rizal Memorial Stadium to spare a valuable point in their impressive 2017 PFL campaign.

The visitors produced more shots, 13-4, despite resting key cog Jesus Melliza who started from the bench. Gabriele Mascazziani, Nathan Alquiros, and Yuki Versoza tried to shoulder the load early on but no one among them can find the back of the net. On the other end of the pitch meanwhile, Benito Rosalia Jr. had little to do in the opening half, reflecting his squad’s control of the clash.

The second half remained cagey in its opening stages but as both teams thought of going for all the marbles, the game gradually opened up. Stallion still looked more dangerous and as they smelled blood, Melliza entered the fray to speed up the process.

With momentum on their side, the Laguna team had a penalty shout ignored by the officials. Fitch Arboleda’s shot may have been blocked by Jake Morallo’s arm which they thought warranted a penalty. Ariel Montaña, the game’s chief official, did not agree.

The draw was indeed on the cards but not without each team getting one more go before full time. Alquiros squandered a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock from close range. Meanwhile, the ball bulged the back of the net on the other side only for it to be ruled out as Tahj Minniecon, whose shot was stopped by Rosalia, was offside. It rendered Jinggoy Valmayor’s rebound goal useless.

The visitors expressed dismay about the result with Polli suggesting they were the better unit in the match. His coach, Ernest Nierras, agreed. “It was a well-played game for both sides. We wanted to control the middle of the pitch and we did,” Nierras uttered with a slight hint of disappointment as the score did not reflect what transpired on the field.”

While his team looked to have dodged a bullet, Aris Caslib personified Meralco’s standards. “We wanted three points so this is a setback for us,” he declared in the post game press conference.

The team’s form entering the playoffs is one of the concerns Meralco would need to address. While not officially there yet, it would take a lot of bad luck for them to miss out on the semifinals.

On the other hand, Stallion’s playoff hopes are slowly fading away. They can’t afford to lose more points like this if they are to squeeze their way into the playoffs.

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Ilocos United takes leave from PFL

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Another one bites the dust

After months of speculation, Ilocos United has formally announced their absence from the Philippines Football League for the 2018 season.

A statement signed by Ilocos Chief Executive Officer Tony Lazaro and posted on the club’s Facebook page broke the big news.

“Unfortunately, after months of negotiation, efforts to attract a new naming sponsor for the Team were unsuccessful,” the statement opened. “Consequently, it has become financially prohibitive to continue participation in the PFL.

“Primarily, the lack of broadcasting exposure in 2017 created an apprehension in the corporate community, cascading into a series of afflictions that has ultimately led to our withdrawal from the competition.”

Ilocos finished last during the inaugural season, tallying 1 win, 6 draws, and 21 losses with a -49 goal differential.

Still, Ilocos gave their thanks to those who supported the club during the inaugural PFL season.

“We are cautiously optimistic of a potential return to the PFL for the 2019 season, whereby secured broadcasting exposure will hopefully lead to higher confidence from potential sponsorship partners.”

While their PFL operations will fold for the time being, Ilocos will continue the grassroots programs they have started within the area. ¨In the meantime, the foundation of football development we helped to build in Ilocos will continue, including grassroots initiatives at local schools, women’s futsal, Special Olympics, and, of course, the IUFC Academy.¨

The latest development will be another big blow for the young league. Meralco Manila pulled out of the competition beforehand, and now Ilocos´ absence leaves only six teams in the competition.

Now more than ever, something needs to be done by the PFL or even the Philippine Football Federation to ensure the feasibility of the clubs and the league itself for years to come.

Football is a hard sport to build in the Philippines despite its resurgence since 2010. There are limited corporate boosters for the sport which is in dire need of a financial push to sustain its growth.

Ilocos´ leave and Meralco´s folding now forces local football´s stakeholders to take a step back and examine the next moves to build the sport.

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Jake Vicen performs under pressure as Blazers end eight-year title drought

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For the second straight match, the championship showdown between the College of Saint Benilde Blazers and the Arellano University Chiefs reached a showdown from the penalty spot. And once more, goalkeeper Jake Vicen came up big.

The third-year custodian denied one of Arellano’s prolific scorers, Roberto Corsame, in the shootout and sealed the title after eight long years, 3-2, penalties, Wednesday evening at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Blazers made their intentions clear from the get-go, as they repeatedly pierced through the defense of the Chiefs.

Nonetheless, in the 38th minute, the white-shirts clinched the goal they deserved. The Blazers pushed forward, and almost got a call in their favor. The referees, however, played advantage, and fortunately Benilde held on to the play.

Miguel Artillera found himself unmarked on the right flank and easily blasted the ball past opposing keeper Jericho Desalisa.

The Marlon Maro-mentored side continued to play aggressively in the following period, and almost plucked a second goal. This time, however, the Chiefs’ backline — led by eventual Best Defender Patrick Bernarte — held on.

Such a stand was rewarded by their attacking force minutes later, and, as expected, the equalizer came from the counterattack.

Corsame received a pass from the middle and defeated two defenders, and seeing Vicen off his line, sent the ball into the onion bag in the 49th minute.

Both sides tried to break the deadlock, but fatigue slowly crept up in the dying minutes of the second period and the whole of extra time, setting up another thrilling finish in the shootout.

Much like in Game 2, the two keepers came up big, as Desalisa and Vicen denied their second kickers a clear shot. Arellano went on to miss another shot, and it was then up to the Blazers to seal the deal.

Dean Ebarle stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the goal for the lead at 3-2. Afterwards, Corsame faced Vicen, but this time, the Cebuano keeper would not be denied. The latter went to his strong side, and, fortunately, guessed right for the huge save, as pandemonium erupted from the Benilde crowd and squad.

The Finals series hero and season Best Goalkeeper Vicen was pleased that the new champions had carved out the historic win despite early adversity. “Big loss ‘yun, si Val [Calvo], kasi may magagawa talaga siya kung nakalaro namin,” he said of losing their former captain.

Nonetheless, the squad stayed focused on getting it done this year.

“Binuhos lang namin every minute sa training. Luckily, hard work paid off,” declared Vicen.

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Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory

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Photo from the-AFC.com

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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Brazilian football legend Zico to visit Manila

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One of the best to ever play the Beautiful Game is coming to the Philippines. Zico, who electrified the footballing world in the ’70s and ’80s, is slated to visit Manila on the weekend of January 27.

The Brazilian, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, is considered one of the best footballers in the world during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Zico starred for the Brazilian national team, scoring 48 goals in 71 appearances for the Selecao. In 1999, the attacking midfielder came 8th in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote, and in 2004 was named in FIFA’s list of the world’s greatest living players.

Zico played for legendary Brazilian club Flamengo and also for the Italian Serie A team Udinese. He finished his playing career suiting up for Kashima Antlers in the J-League, the top tier of Japanese football, leading them to an unlikely runner-up finish.

The 64-year-old also had a successful managerial career, leading Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Greek team Olympiacos, and CSKA Moscow to titles. Zico was also in charge of the Japanese national team when they won the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. Because of that accomplishment, Zico is one of the most beloved football figures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Seven Seas Properties, a company that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market, is bringing the football icon here.

“We are delighted to welcome Zico to the Philippines. I’m sure he will give a big boost to the growing football scene here,” says Seven Seas Properties President Yukihiro Nishimura.

Zico will attend a CSR event with young footballers from underprivileged communities on Saturday, January 27. The following day, Sunday January 28, he will lead a football clinic for elite young players and coaches in the McKinley Hill stadium in Taguig. Football fans and media are welcome to watch this event, which kicks off at 2:00 pm. Admission is free.

Zico in Manila is also made possible by Otsuka – Solar Philippines, Inter Sports Partners, AgriNurture, and Primex.

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