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Football

PFL Roundup: Younghusband brothers grace Meralco-Manila exit on a high

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Only four teams saw action in the latest round of fixtures in the Philippines Football League.

Here’s how each match went down this weekend:

Nikolić stars in Younghusband’s farewell victory against new club Davao Aguilas


For the last time, Phil and James Younghusband guided Meralco-Manila to a league triumph on Saturday against Davao Aguilas with the score of 3-2.

Phil provided two assists in the match, one of which benefited his elder brother James who marked his last match in Meralco colors with a goal. Sharing the spotlight with the duo is Nemanja Nikolić, whose brace ultimately propelled the Sparks back on top of the table.

Some would say it was just another day in the office for the brothers, who have done this feat time and time again throughout their careers. However, this felt truly different than all the previous ones as this served as the last game of the former Chelsea academy players with the Sparks. Right after the final whistle, the brothers have the Davao project in their minds.

In what was an entertaining match between two cleans situated at the opposing ends of the table, the hosts reminded their visitors of their potential. Australian forward Harrison Sawyer put Davao ahead with an instinctive move punishing the Sparks’ defensive lapse in the 33rd minute.

The Manileños were able to respond in the 41st minute through Milan Nikolić’s header off a Phil Younghusband corner yet it was not enough to keep the game tied by halftime. New signing Matthew Hartmann from Global-Cebu sneaked the ball past Ace Villanueva to restore Davao’s lead come the interval.

With their backs against the wall, the Sparks banked on their experienced duo to lift them back into the match. Phil teed up brother James four minutes after the hour mark to level the scores at 2-2 in the 64th minute. Having dominated the second half, the visitors took advantage of the momentum as Nikolić struck once more in the 66th minute to give Meralco-Manila the lead for good.

“It was an emotional match,” standout defender Nikolić uttered after his team’s win. “Thanks to the crowd and thanks to Phil and James for all they have done for the club,” he added.

Meralco-Manila move back on top of the standings and stayed there after results the following day. They will usher in a new era without the Younghusbands when they host Global-Cebu this Tuesday.

Resurgent Stallion-Laguna derails Kaya-Makati’s winning momentum


Enjoying a five-game winning streak, Kaya-Makati knew they were up for a big test when they squared off against Stallion-Laguna in Biñan Sunday afternoon. The Stallions are on a three-game winning streak themselves, slowly announcing their intentions to fight for a spot in the playoffs.

At the end of a gruelling 90-minute affair, two of the league’s hottest teams shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw. Kaya looked to be the dominant team in the first half and came really close to breaking the deadlock in the 34th minute. Robert Lopez Mendy was in a good position to score and was only denied by the post.

Meanwhile, Gabriele Mascazzini provided the closest opportunity for Stallion to draw first blood. The Swiss midfielder forced Ref Cuaresma into action with the ex-Loyola custodian doing well to keep the scores level at the break.

Shortly after the interval, Kaya-Makati found what they were looking for thanks to the Senegalese striker. Lopez Mendy nodded Janrick Soriano’s well-placed cross into the back of the net. At that moment, they only had 40 minutes to see out the result to record their sixth consecutive league victory.

Stallion didn’t relish the prospect of Kaya-Makati ending their four-game unbeaten streak right at their own backyard so they dug deep for an equalizer. Just four minutes in after falling behind, the Laguna-based team pegged their opponents back thanks to the alertness of Dan Villarico. He stepped up to slot the ball in past Cuaresma, who couldn’t hold on to Jhan-Jhan Melliza’s attempt.

Eager to score another goal that would perhaps give them all three points for good, Kaya-Makati pressed hard to breach the disciplined Stallion-Laguna defense. Unlike in some of their recent wins when they would pop late goals to seal the points, there was nothing the Makati team could do against the resilient Stallion squad that is now undefeated in the last five games.

“The month of July we did well. Having seven games unbeaten – drawing two and winning five – it’s a pretty good record. We were able to meet our objective of getting more points in the month of July. Now we regroup and focus our attention on facing Meralco next week,” Kaya-Makati Noel Marcaida assessed after the game.

By failing to win, Kaya-Makati lost their grip on the top spot despite staying unbeaten for the whole month. At the very least, they were able to slightly extend the gap to four from Ceres-Negros and Global-Cebu. The two Visayan sides round up the top four with the bottom four still unchanged.

Rescheduled Matches


Two matches were called off this weekend for various reasons. Ceres-Negros and Global-Cebu’s scheduled meeting on Saturday in order to give way for the former’s preparation for the AFC Cup Zonal Finals. The Negrenses will face Home united in the two-legged series beginning this coming Wednesday.

The match between Ilocos United and JPV-Marikina, on the other hand, will be played 10 days later in Vigan. The meeting was postponed on Sunday due to Typhoon Gorio’s impact on the area, particularly on the playing surface.

Credits to Meralco-Manila and Kaya-Makati staff for photos and interview quotes

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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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Contributed photos

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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