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PFL Roundup: Kaya-Makati score huge win over rivals Meralco-Manila; Davao Aguilas perform heist in Laguna



Three games took place on the final day of September 2017 in the Philippines Football League, with a Metro Manila derby taking center stage. Matches in Negros and Laguna completed the schedule, with Global’s Singapore Cup participation meaning a match with JPV-Marikina will be played at a later date.

Here’s how each match unfolded this weekend:

Late Eric Giganto goal earns Kaya-Makati bragging rights over Meralco-Manila, 2-1

In a heated derby day collision, Kaya-Makati emerged victorious against Meralco-Manila, 2-1, Saturday afternoon at the University of Makati Football Field, all thanks to Eric Ben Giganto’s decisive finish in the penultimate minute of the match.

It was a deserved win for the home side, who began the match more positively than their opponents. Usual suspects Robert Lopez Mendy, Kenshiro Daniels, and Jordan Mintah were in the thick of things, and the latter two combined well to unlock an organized Meralco defense. Daniels did well to move to the byline after shrugging off a challenge. He then set up Mintah, whose finish gave Kaya-Makati fans a reason to celebrate.

The league leaders looked for a response, ideally before halftime, and got what they were eyeing just before the half-hour mark. Lee Jeong Min’s neat finish from a set piece restored parity in the match. It would stay that way until the break.

The physical nature of the encounter limited players from creating plenty of opportunities, so profligacy in front of goal would cost anyone dearly. That looked to be the case in the end, as one team converted while the other failed to do so. In the 79th minute, Meralco’s Tahj Minniecon came up with a great opportunity to complete the turnaround, but former Sparks goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma did enough to rattle the Australian. Despite managing to shoot, Minniecon missed the target.

It was Giganto’s turn 10 minutes later and unlike Minniecon, the former FEU Tamaraw clinically buried his strike. “I’m so happy. Hindi ko na expect na ma-shoo-shoot ko yun because, it came from nowhere. Winning goal pa, so I want to thank God. When I looked forward, I saw a defender. When I went to shoot, the angle was too tight. I faked it, put it towards my left, and then fired,” he shared to Kaya FC media.

A fitting way to finish the derby, as Kaya-Makati moved closer to rivals Meralco-Manila in the table. Having played a game more, Makati have 41 points — just three less than their Manila rivals.

Davao Aguilas gains share of the spoils to frustrate Stallion-Laguna, 2-2

Only a late Phil Younghusband penalty conversion could both save Davao Aguilas’ faces and deny Stallion-Laguna the chance to get back to winning ways, as the Philippines’ leading goalscorer secured yet another measly point that will not please either side. The match finished 2-2 on Saturday afternoon at the Biñan Sports Complex, and with fewer games remaining on the calendar, it might be safe to say the two sides’ opportunities to reach the playoffs are nixed.

Davao’s investment in the transfer window signified their intentions to breach the playoffs barrier, but unfortunately for them, nothing of equal magnitude has materialized. The same cannot be said of Stallion-Laguna, who remain proud of fielding majority of homegrown talent despite tapping a couple of foreign reinforcements.

With the defense concentrating on Jhan-Jhan Melliza, it was Fitch Arboleda who provided the goods for Stallion-Laguna. The former UE Red Warrior opened the scoring nine minutes before the end of the first half. Off a broken Davao play, the hosts launched a swift attack, which the Azkal finished in style.

Davao needed someone to get them on the scoresheet, and this is where their decision to sign Phil Younghusband looks shrewd. The former Meralco-Manila talisman leveled the scores approaching the business end of the match in the 66th minute. It almost went for naught, though, as Arboleda quickly responded to bring Stallion back in front.

A costly mistake in the end stopped the home team from winning the match, as they allowed Davao to level once more from the spot. As he has done throughout his career, Phil Younghusband drilled the kick past Benito Rosalia in the last minute of the match. The stalemate isn’t the result either team was looking for, as they now have mountains of different scales to climb to reach the top four.

Ceres-Negros makes quick work of Ilocos United

Ceres-Negros made sure opponents Ilocos United were powerless to record a second consecutive away victory when the Busmen smashed the Ilocanos, 5-0, Saturday evening at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.

Coming off a huge win last week, Ilocos United looked forward to going toe-to-toe with Ceres. They had a week to prepare for the occasion, but it seems like they needed more time, as the hosts ravaged the visiting team’s chances as early as five minutes in. Bienvenido Marañon’s instincts earned him the opening goal when he recovered a loose ball in the Ilocos United half before cleanly guiding it past Baba Sampana.

His compatriot Fernando Rodriguez joined him on the scoresheet 14 minutes later, when the Spaniard was in the right place at the right time to smash the ball into the net. The gulf in class between the two sides was evident and the home team made sure the score reflected that.

Carli de Murga got Ceres’ third through a set piece in the 29th minute, and Stephan Schröck added a cheeky fourth when his cross turned into a shot, wrong-footing the former Meralco goalkeeper. It was a long 45 minutes for Ilocos United, who perhaps deserved to at least put one into the net.

Before Schrock’s effort, Charlie Beaton had the chance to set up Arthur Kouassi inside the box. The latter unfortunately misguided his shot, to his team’s dismay. The only positive for Ilocos was that the halftime whistle sounded soon, allowing them to regroup for the next half.

In terms of goals conceded, Ilocos did much better in the second half, but that was not the only measure of their improvement. They also managed to string together a couple of decent chances from Beaton and Chima Uzoka. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to make those rare opportunities count.

To add to their misfortunes, Ceres pocketed one more goal to sweetly finish off the match. Marañon set up Schröck to lead all scorers on the night with two goals.

The international break starting tomorrow means that PFL action will resume in the second week of October. Meralco will host Stallion, while Kaya will visit Ceres on Saturday, 14th of October. On the next day, Davao and Cebu will entertain the visiting JPV and Ilocos.



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



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



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



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



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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