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Ceres demolishes Loyola to tighten hold of top spot



Ceres-La Salle FC shrugged off an early deficit to take home three precious points following a 6-1 hammering of fellow title contenders Loyola Meralco Sparks FC in the opening night of the United Football League (UFL) Division I’s second round Saturday evening at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Towed by a Bienvenido Marañon hattrick, a Patrick Reichelt brace, and a Jeffrey Christiaens goal, Ceres momentarily moved six points clear of second-placed Stallion FC in the league table.

Before getting the scoring party started, the current league leaders had to endure going behind in the early stages of the game. Eighteen minutes into the match, Lee Joo Young’s cross from the flank found Bradley Grayson. The Englishman then clinically slotted the ball against Louie Casas, Ceres goalkeeper, to give his team an important lead. To the Sparks’ dismay, their advantage only lasted for seven minutes. Getting the better of Loyola’s backline, Reichelt smoothly advanced into the box before beating Loyola custodian Tomas Trigo with a finesse shot in a one-on-one situation to level the score. Shortly, Ceres moved ahead in the contest after gaining a penalty near the half-hour mark. The referee adjudged Reichelt’s shot that ricocheted off the post to have been handled by a Loyola player on its way out. Marañon made no mistake from the spot to turn the game around. After a barren exchange between the two sides, the Spanish striker padded his team’s lead in the first minute of the opening half’s added time. Traversing the byline, Marañon sneaked the ball past Trigo to make it 3-1 for Ceres at the half.

After a relatively stale start to the second half, Ceres inflicted further damage to Loyola. Three minutes before the hour mark, Reichelt took advantage of open space to bury his second of the match. Thirteen minutes later, Ceres found the back of the net anew courtesy of Marañon. The hattrick hero from the Iberian Peninsula slid in Reichelt’s cross with ease to punish the Sparks who were missing the services of Phil Younghusband and Anthony Putrus-Schnell. On Loyola’s part, they produced several unsuccessful in their pursuit in drawing closer. Instead five minutes before time, substitute Christiaens finished the rout by converting a nifty cross drilled in by Oladipo Okunaiya, sending out a strong message to other teams seeking to out-duel Ceres towards the title.

After the match, Ceres gaffer Ali Go praised his players for sticking to the plan despite trailing early against Loyola. “Everyone reciprocated. Kudos to the boys. They played well. Even when Loyola scored, I was confident the boys will bounce back. We prepared for this,” he declared. Moving forward, Go thinks a few more improvements in defense and midfield will do the trick in Ceres’ title charge. While Ceres continue to mount a daring championship quest, Loyola’s search for a first league title took a massive blow. They now face a daunting task of overhauling an eight-point gap at the very least if they are to take home the most coveted piece of silverware in Philippine club football in August.

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