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PFL Roundup: Meralco-Manila extends league lead; In-form Global-Cebu climbs to second



The Meralco-Manila FC Sparks preserved their reign on top of the Philippines Football League after they surpassed a tricky encounter against fellow National Capital Region-side JPV-Marikina.

Elsewhere, heavy favorites Kaya-Makati, Global-Cebu, and Ceres-Negros stamped their class on their lowly opposition to rack up important points. Here’s how each game unfolded this weekend:

10-man Meralco-Manila fends off JPV-Marikina for cushioned grip on top spot

James Younghusband came to the rescue for the league leaders Meralco-Manila FC when they overcame a stiff challenge presented to them by then second-seeded side JPV-Marikina on Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The Sparks edged Voltes, 2-1, at full time needing to withstand a deficit in manpower for the last 15 minutes of the match.

In a frantic match that saw both teams eager to break down each other, the men in orange took the lead in the 23rd minute through an unfortunate JPV own goal credited to Masaki Yanagawa. The former Global defender aimed to help Nelson Gasic in clearing the ball away but had instead turned it into his own net to the delight of Meralco-Manila fans.

JPV-Marikina did not stay behind for long as a defensive lapse committed by Daniel Gadia allowed the men in violet to launch a counterattack initiated by John Celiz. He eventually found Satoshi Otomo who smashed the ball past Junjun Badelic. Meralco looked the better of the two sides since then but were unrewarded heading into the break as the score stayed 1-1.

When play resumed, Meralco also continued to pile the pressure on Voltes. Tahj Minniecon and Phil Younghusband spearheaded the charge and both looked threatening whenever they were given the green light to shoot. As time slowly winded down, Sparks mentor Aris Caslib gradually shuffled his deck with the aim of finding the breakthrough goal. In doing so, he got what we was looking for when one of the substitutes put his team back in front.

James, coming on for Simon Greatwich, was just four minutes into the game when he headed in Tyler Matas’ long throw in the 68th minute. It proved to be enough for Meralco to take the win, but not before their character was tested late in the game.

In the 76th minute, Gadia was sent off for a second bookable offence leaving his team down by a man. Nonetheless, JPV-Marikina couldn’t take advantage in the end and were left frustrated by it come full time as the Sparks held on to a 2-1 victory.

Speaking after the match, Caslib recognized an important aspect in the Sparks’ game after the hard-earned result. “They want to go to the next level and the next level is really developing the team spirit and being competitive in all matches. I appreciate the effort of the entire team,” the former Azkals coach uttered.

Unbeaten in the league so far, the Sparks will be tested this coming week when they face the two teams that finished higher than them in the United Football League last season: Global-Cebu and Ceres-Negros. Armed with momentum, the lads in orange are hoping to get through the week with their position on top intact.

Bahadoran leads Global-Cebu’s second half rally over floundering Stallion-Laguna

Playing on Sunday night, Global-Cebu knew that a victory in their second game at the Cebu City Sports Center will put them in solo second following the earlier results in the weekend. Standing in their way were Stallion-Laguna, a struggling team that nonetheless knows how to cope with the might of the Cebuanos. The 1-1 result in Biñan earlier this season testifies to their grit against a team like Global.

However, playing in their new home made Global superior in this encounter. They forced their visitors to defend for most of the half with Stallion fortunate to escape halftime still level with the hosts. All of it changed in the second half when Akbar Nawas’ boys finally broke the deadlock.

Captain Misagh Bahadoran scored the first goal in the 48th minute and from that moment, the home team only thought of adding more to their tally. The People’s Club got their second goal six minutes after the hour mark through the 30-year-old Azkal who ended the night with a brace.

Stallion-Laguna, who sports the worst goal difference in the league, failed to prevent their opponents from inflicting more damage as an 86th minute Shu Sasaki strike condemned them to a sixth league defeat. It’s worth noting that out of those six losses, five had come with a margin of at least three goals. Fortunately for them, they have enough points to stay above Ilocos United in the table.

As for Global-Cebu, back-to-back home wins in their home ground this past week will serve as a timely momentum boost ahead of their midweek encounter at home with league leaders Meralco-Manila.

Busmen rebound from midweek setback with Ilocos United drubbing

Coming off a disappointing 1-0 defeat away to Global-Cebu last Wednesday, Ceres-Negros brushed off their woes in sensational fashion by registering bottom-side Ilocos United their worst defeat in the league. The northern Luzon club absorbed their worst defeat in the league when they were hammered 7-0 by the Busmen on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Bacolod.

German football veteran Stephan Schröck got the ball rolling for Ceres-Negros, opening the scoring just 11 minutes after kickoff. The former Hoffenheim player then teed up Jeffrey Christiaens 15 minutes later to pad the Negrenses’ advantage. The floodgates have certainly opened, much to Ilocos United’s dismay as the hosts never looked back. Fernando Rodriguez got himself on the scoresheet when he was given ample time and space to punish the Ilocanos’ haphazard defending.

Already down 3-0, Ilocos unsuccessfully tried to reduce the deficit at the very least. Dominic del Rosario and Ben Tolete both had a go but failed to force a save from Michael Casas, who actually almost gifted the visiting team a lifeline. Fortunately for the former Philippines international, he managed to keep the ball out when he missed a back pass looking to sneak into the back of the net.

Dodging a mishap, Ceres-Negros looked to ship more goals in as they looked to boost their goal difference. Inside the last quarter of the match, the Bacolod-based team got what they wanted through the efforts of OJ Porteria, Super Herrera, and Patrick Reichelt. Porteria grabbed a quick-fire brace within three second half minutes. The Spanish defender followed suit before Reichelt, sidelined for 10 months due to an injury, capped a night Ilocos United would like to forget.

Kaya-Makati punishes 10-man Davao Aguilas with 5-1 beating

On the road this week, Kaya-Makati left the Davao del Norte Sports Complex happily as they collected a huge 5-1 away triumph against the Davaoeños. Despite the final score, the affair between the two sides was much closer than the result suggests.

Both Ref Cuaresma and Marko Trkulja were called into action early and the opposing goalkeepers were up to the challenge. Eventually, the first goal arrived inside 20 minutes for the away team. It was Joven Bedic who supplied the decisive on a Robert Lopez Mendy pass to put Kaya-Makati in front. It turned out to be the only goal of the first half which saw plenty of attacks snuffed out by both defenses.

The second half provided better entertainment quality, started by a quick Davao goal just four minutes after the restart. Nikola Grubjesic nabbed the equalizer to make it interesting heading into the next 40 minutes of play. Things were looking up for the hosts but a 55th minute setback changed the complexion of the match in favor of Kaya as Aguilas defender Jason Cordova saw a straight red card for his rash challenge on Marwin Angeles. Playing with a man more on the field, the visitors took full advantage.

Just three minutes after the sending off, Kaya regained the lead thanks to Alfred Osei. The Ghanaian nodded the ball from a Miguel Tanton set piece past Trkulja. The home team still had a fight left in them, but playing with a man less made their situation more difficult. In the end, they fell powerless to Kaya’s dominance by conceding two late goals scored by Eric Giganto and Kenshiro Daniels that rounded up the seemingly flattering 5-1 demolition.


Coming up in the PFL this Wednesday is another top-of-the-table clash between Global-Cebu and Meralco-Manila to be played at the Cebu City Sports Center. A win for the home side will allow them to share the league leadership with their upcoming adversaries. Kickoff is slated at 7pm.



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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Jake Vicen saves Saint Benilde’s season, forces winner-take-all



For most of the match, College of Saint Benilde Blazers’ goalkeeper Jake Vicen was under pressure. However, that just set up his heroics in the end.

The third-year custodian came up big with two huge denials in the shootout, as the Blazers won 4-2 after the match ended at 3-3 after 120 minutes against the Arellano University Chiefs, Friday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Applying the same game plan and using their speed advantage, the Chiefs pummeled the Blazers’ defense, plucking a chance at the set piece. The free kick went for naught, but the succeeding sequence turned into the go-ahead goal.

In the seventh minute, the ball bounced in front of Arellano captain Cymun Sanquilos, who blasted the ball into the top corner past the outstretched arms of Jake Vicen.

The rest of the first period was a defensive clinic from the Season 91 champions, as Saint Benilde were left scouring for opportunities to level the match. The green-shirts simply waited for that moment, as their possession improved and their attacking aggressiveness increased in the following period.

At the hour mark, Dean Ebarle received a low cross inside the penalty area, and finding himself unmarked, slotted the ball into the bag for the equalizer.

Both teams tried to break the deadlock once more, only neither team could not barge through the opposing defense in the remaining minutes of the second half and the whole of extra time.

Thus, the match has to be decided on kicks from the penalty spot.

Vicen and Jericho Desalisa denied the second kickers setting up a dramatic finish, to which the former turned his focus, “Sabi ko sa coaches, ‘Kukunin ko ‘to. Yung shoot out di naturalist hangga’t ‘di pumipito yung ref.”

Patrick Bernarte missed miserably wide as Vicen was on point, setting up long-time teammate Moiselle Alforque for the winning spot kick.

Head coach Marlon Maro was pleased on how the Blazers had responded in this game. As for the sudden-death match, he commented, “May the best team win.”

That third and deciding match is scheduled on Wednesday also at 6:00pm.

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