Beleu Cleopas sneaked in two goals, including a last-gasp winner, to give Team Socceroo FC a 2-1 against Fleet Marine FC in the first game in Group B of the UFL Cup 2015 held earlier tonight at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Both teams fairly shared the ball in the opening 45 minutes of the match. With no team gaining momentum, it was a game of chances. Team Socceroo had the game’s first chance courtesy of Cleopas who was only able to hit the ball wide at the fifth minute. The next big chance came five minutes after when Divino Regis located Jerome Cuyos but the latter was unable to direct his shot into the goal. Later in the match, Fleet Marine notched their first good look on goal. Gerard Brown teed up Diallo Mohamed only for Baba Sampana to interrupt. The ball fell loose onto the path of Lynnard Bautista who then found Jose Caminos but the latter’s effort was deflected by a rushing Socceroo defender for a corner. The ensuing play was fruitless and when Socceroo moved quickly forward, it was Cleopas who did the magic for them. The winger weaved around the Fleet Marine defense by moving into the box before tucking the ball past an open net to make it 1-0 for Team Socceroo.
An eventful 15 minutes or so of football followed with both teams struggling to make the most of each other’s defensive lapses, often lacking the extra man or the extra pass to make the difference. The game came alive two minutes after the half hour mark when Socceroo’s Pierre Bayemeg impeded Diallo Mohamed inside the 18-yard box to give away a penalty for Fleet Marine. Two minutes later, Brown confidently smashed the ball into the net, sending Sampana the wrong way, to equalize with 11 minutes left in the first half. After a passive showing between the two sides, the referee blew the halftime whistle with neither team ahead at 1-1.
With the two teams unable to make a lot of opportunities count, a moment of brilliance or otherwise an unfortunate lapse may just be enough for a winner to emerge of this tight affair. The closest Fleet Marine came to scoring was at the 60th minute. Team Socceroo’s Pierre Bayemeg handled Mohamed’s cross into the box, resulting in a corner for Fleet Marine. From the spot, Mohamed failed to take the lead for his team as Sampana managed to palm the ball away. Gary Viliran pounced on the rebound but the Team Socceroo goalkeeper recovered to make another save, this time getting a grip on the ball.
A series of empty counter attacks and unproductive set piece plays burned precious time for both teams who were actively seeking the breakthrough goal. With only around 30 seconds left in the five minutes of stoppage time awarded by the officials, a misfired clearance of Arnel Casil’s long throw found its way to Cleopas who only needed two touches to make it 2-1. Unlike his first goal, there was little time left for Fleet Marine to respond as the referee signalled the end of play just a few seconds after the restart.
Team Socceroo coach Kleng Cacacho pleasantly shared his thoughts after a closely-fought match. “It was a cardiac game. Last 30 seconds we scored a goal but still, it’s a goal. Although we didn’t play as planned, we played 100% and that’s what I need—a player who can play 100% and to fight for that ball.” He also credited new acquisition Baba Sampana who did superbly, particularly in keeping the score level midway through the second half. “He’s an experienced player. He played outside already and some of the first divisions here. I think he did well,” Cacacho added.
Team Socceroo will play their second group stage game next Saturday against Kaya FC, which kicks off at 1:45 PM. Fleet Marine FC, on the other hand, will hope to bounce back in their 4:00 PM game against Pachanga-Diliman FC also on the same day.