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PFL Roundup: Davao Aguilas holds ground against Global-Cebu; JPV-Marikina edges Kaya



As the international break came to a close, six teams in the Philippines Football League returned to action this past weekend. Into the second half of the season, the race for the playoff spots is heating up nicely. Here’s how each game took place over the past 48 hours:

Yanagawa goal yields crucial win for JPV-Marikina at Kaya-Makati’s expense

Prior to kickoff, JPV-Marikina knew they needed to make the most of facing a fellow playoff contender in Kaya-Makati if they are to see themselves in the postseason. Making up for lost ground, the Marikeños did just that as they battled hard to pick up a 1-0 triumph at the Rizal Memorial Stadium Sunday evening.

Masaki Yanagawa got the winning goal for JPV as he instinctively tucked the ball in off a corner 34 minutes into the game. It was the best chance JPV had all game as Kaya sought for retribution most of the way.

The biggest obstacle the Makati club faced was breaking down the resolve of an impressive Nelson Gasic Jr. Having shown his quality time and time again since last season in the United Football League, the JPV goalkeeper responded well to the pressure. Kaya’s potent strike force were kept at bay with the likes of Jordan Mintah, Joven Bedic and Eric Giganto simply unable to breach Gasic’s goal. Time eventually ran out, allowing JPV to win their seventh match of the season.

“We really needed to win to reach the top four teams,” Yanagawa told the press after the game. The result provides a massive boost for the Marikina side as they are now just a point off the top four, although Ceres-Negros have five games in hand which could widen the gap a bit further.

As for Kaya-Makati, they have a trip to struggling Ilocos United to look forward to come Sunday. JPV-Marikina, meanwhile, will make the short stroll down to Biñan to face a resurgent Stallion-Laguna this Saturday.

New signings inspire Davao Aguilas in stalemate versus Global-Cebu

New additions Phil Younghusband and Jason de Jong proved to be shrewd additions for Gary Phillips’ Davao Aguilas as the duo provided the goals that allowed the home side come from behind to pick up a 2-2 draw against Global-Cebu at the Davao del Norte Sports Complex Saturday afternoon.

The visitors, just like in their previous encounter in Tagum, struck first. Paolo Salenga guided the ball into the net inside 13 minutes. The former NU Bulldog is in fine form and has shown yet again his finishing prowess for the Cebuanos.

On the back foot, the new look Aguilas took a bit of time to garner response but they were able to do so before halftime. Phil Younghusband converted a penalty awarded in the 43rd minute to hopefully settle the nerves of the Davaoeños.

Unfortunately for the hosts, Global-Cebu restored the lead once more even before the officials signaled halftime. Dennis Villanueva got the decisive touch in a messy set piece situation. It stayed that way come the interval, leaving Davao a bit more frustrated than they were after they had let Global to take the lead again.

Davao would feel grateful there were still 45 minutes to change the complexion of the game, something that they succeeded in doing thanks to a familiar face for Global. Their former player, Jason de Jong, netted a 64th minute equalizer to make things really interesting approaching full time. Both teams went at it with the score level at 2-apiece but neither found a breakthrough goal, perhaps doing justice to themselves as neither deserved to lose.

After not playing for a month and a half, Davao returned to action still without a win and will look to end the hunt for the maiden victory when it’s their turn to visit Global-Cebu this Wednesday. Davao’s task of claiming a win in Cebu should be a really difficult one as the Cebuanos are undefeated in five games at home, a record Global would want to extend beyond this week.

Stallion-Laguna slams five past cellar dwellers Ilocos United

Stallion-Laguna’s rise in the PFL just keeps on going as they hammered Ilocos United, 5-0, at the Biñan Sports Complex. Jhan-jhan Melliza pocketed four of the five goals, with a second-half hattrick killing off the Ilocanos’ slim comeback hopes.

Before halftime, the former FEU Tamaraw managed to get into the scoresheet 14 minutes after kickoff. As expected, Stallion controlled the first half yet their dominance would not be reflected until the second period.

Seven minutes after halftime, the hosts doubled their lead again through Melliza. Not long after, Fitch Arboleda joined his former rival and now teammate in the scoresheet when he fired the ball into the net in the 55th minute. The quick two-goal haul virtually killed of Ilocos United, whose misery on the day was far from complete.

The Ilocanos fell victim to two quick strikes yet again in the dying minutes of the encounter after Melliza rounded off a spectacular afternoon in style for Stallion, notching his third and fourth goals in the 87th and 92nd minutes.

The result marks Stallion’s third straight win in the league and their sixth out of their last eight matches. The same cannot be said about Ilocos United after they absorbed another defeat which is their 14th already this season.

The match between Ceres-Negros and Meralco-Manila was postponed to allow the Negrenses to prepare for the AFC Cup. They will battle Istiklol with a 4-0 aggregate deficit to overhaul if they are to progress to the inter-zonal final.



Ilocos United takes leave from PFL



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



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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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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