Ceres-La Salle had to work their way to defeat the defiant Philippine Army squad, 2-1, in order to win their second game in the UFL Cup 2015 earlier tonight at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. A goal in each half from Lee Jeong Woo and Martin Steuble appeared enough to hand Army their first loss of the tournament although they remained on course throughout the game.
As expected in a skirmish between the best and worst team of UFL Division I, Ceres dominated the game. In the first 10 minutes of the game, Adrian Gallardo Valdes, Yong Chan Son and Jeffrey Christiaens tested the Army defense anchored by goalkeeper Wilson Muñoz with multiple shots, all of which were dealt with quite easily by the Armed Forces. Rarely on the attack, Army had openings via quick counter attacks but none of those bothered Ceres custodian Louie Casas.
Nineteen minutes in, Oladipo Okunaiya went towards the box with the aim of breaking the deadlock. His shot was blocked but Lee was on the rebound, only for him to miscue the shot way off target. Nonetheless, the Korean made up for his miss by scoring the opening goal in the succeeding minute. Off a Christiaens’ cross from the left wing, Lee chipped the ball into the far post, giving Muñoz no chance of getting there in time. After leading, Ceres continued to bombard balls into the Army box, albeit haphazardly. Gallardo had a couple of good chances inside the box shortly after Ceres went ahead but Muñoz read his first shot well and the Spaniard sent the ball wide in the second occasion. Before the half hour mark, national team players Christiaens and the Angeles twins Marvin and Marwin, also pulled out decent shots but all of their efforts came to nothing as the score stayed level, much to the relief of the striped men of the Philippine Army.
The pride of Negros remained the better team before halftime but kept on squandering each chance they had. Gallardo came closest in putting the team ahead by two but his attempt with three minutes left in the half struck the woodwork. Just down by a goal, Army had a chance to even the score before the break with a free kick within attainable range but Boogie Margarse was only able to send the ball over the goal. At the half, commanding Ceres only lead by a solitary margin.
Along with the resumption of play, Ceres preserved their control in the match. They even thought they doubled their lead when Lee tucked in the ball after he charged down on Muñoz inside the six yard box but the referee disallowed the goal at the 47th minute. The inability to cushion their lead despite overpowering their foes slightly alarmed Ceres, who virtually made it a one-sided affair in the opening 20 minutes of the second half. Steuble was highly involved by taking shots and looking for teammates in that period and his perseverance was repaid with 25 minutes left in the match. The Swiss-born Filipino midfielder lashed a curling effort from outside the box into the goal, once again beyond the reach of the busy Muñoz.
Just as when the points looked safe with Army not able to threaten Ceres seriously, Benitez pulled a goal back to give Army the chance of salvaging at least a draw right after Steuble’s wonder strike. Army’s comeback bid was given a huge blow at the 72nd minute when Reynan Doromal got himself sent off for violently protesting a booking he earned moments before. Having a man down made moving forward difficult for Army, who were also defending in numbers in able to keep themselves in the game. Ceres though, had the chance to exploit Army easier as they hold a man advantage, but they never gave Muñoz something to worry about by hitting weak and wayward shots until the final whistle sounded.
“They think that they’re winners already. They haven’t won anything yet. I think they have to keep their feet on the ground. We’re playing really bad,” Ceres Coach Ali Go ashamedly commented. Believing that his players have underestimated their opponents, Go reminded that they are still far away from where they want to be and the way they played today is not the way he wants them to do so in their upcoming games. “We should respect everyone, whatever team is that. I am ashamed with how we play but we have to move on and stand up and train and try to motivate the players in any way I can,” he summed up.
Go expects Ceres to fare better in their next game, which will be on Sunday, May 10, against Bright Star FC at 8:30 PM. On the other hand, the Philippine Army will enjoy a considerably long break as they will only return to battle on the 17th of May, at 4:00 PM versus Green Archers United.