The two hottest teams in the United Football League (UFL) asserted their dominance in the league once again, yesterday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Sitting at the top of the table, Global FC tackled minnows Nomads, 12-0, before second-placed Ceres-La Salle served up a 7-1 beating of mid-table side Green Archers United (GAU).
Global FC v Nomads SC
On what started as a sunny Thursday afternoon, Global turned up the heat on their hapless foes, taking just seven minutes before finding the back of the net. Hikaru Minegishi finished off a well-executed attacking sequence by beating his man and getting past Nomads goalkeeper Joshua Cruz. A couple of minutes later, Minegishi thought he had scored anew only for the officials to disallow his goal, as he had been deemed offside. Nevertheless, his team got an imminent second in the 15th minute. Minegishi turned provider this time around, as Misagh Bahadoran met his cheeky pass and slotted it in clinically. The Global captain netted the first of his five goals in the encounter.
The match ended in a rout, but it didn’t look like it would in the middle portion of the opening half. While still porous, the Nomads’ defense thwarted a series of attacks from the rampant Global team. The period stretched as far as 17 minutes, wonderfully ended by Bahadoran’s volley off the post, catching everyone in green and white by surprise. Not long after, Paolo Bugas and Ivan Petrovic joined the scoring party against their demoralized counterparts just before the halftime whistle sounded.
Just like in the first half, it took The People’s Club another seven minutes before scoring. Dennis Villanueva became the fifth scorer of the game after he neatly tucked in the ball from a Minegishi cross. Around the halfway mark, Bahadoran completed his hat-trick by effortlessly guiding the ball into the net. He may have pocketed three, but the Azkal was far from over. He netted a fourth five minutes later, while a fifth came 15 minutes before time. In between Bahadoran’s last two goals was a Minegishi strike that sealed a brace for the Global midfielder. And it wasn’t only Minegishi who scored twice, as Villanueva got his second goal a few moments later. Substitutr Arthur Kouassi rounded up the annihilation with a tap-in in the 88th minute.
Instead of finding delight with the outcome, Global Coach Leigh Manson lamented the state of the league, echoing Ceres-La Salle counterpart Ali Go’s statements a few weeks back regarding disparity. “I don’t think it does us any good. I don’t think anyone enjoyed that. Pretty sure Nomads didn’t enjoy it, I don’t think our players have come off the field feeling particularly great,” Manson reckoned, while also tipping his hats to their opponents whom he believes deserve respect. It wasn’t all negative for the Scottish mentor, as he also expressed satisfaction with the team’s output on defense amidst rotating the squad.
Ceres-La Salle vs. Green Archers United
In the second game, Global’s opponents on Sunday Ceres-La Salle took on Green Archers United with their sights set on putting the pressure back on their fellow contenders, whom they will face on Sunday. The defending UFL Champions looked for the opening goal as soon as the game began, but found the GAU defense stubborn. Headed by Henri Bandeken Fong between the sticks, the Archers’ defense made life a bit difficult for the Busmen. Early chances from Martin Steuble, Victorino Son, and Adrian Gallardo were dealt with well by the busy goalkeeper. A defensive lapse in the 28th minute unfortunately undermined the stability of GAU’s defense, as Ronnie Aguisanda’s poor back pass turned into a neat concession of the ball to Lee Jeong Woo. The Korean made no mistake and punished GAU to put Ceres-La Salle in the ascendancy.
Despite the game ending in a lopsided scoreline, the game wasn’t entirely one-way traffic. GAU managed to apply pressure on Ceres’ defense, with Jhanjhan Melliza almost equalizing for the men in green five minutes after they fell behind. Thankfully for Ceres, Eduard Sacapaño reacted well enough to prevent the ball from sneaking past him. Slightly alarmed, Ceres were keen to pad the lead and did so five minutes before the break. Gallardo had the opportunity to score Ceres’ second and third goals in the last five minutes of the first half to give his team much-needed breathing space at the interval.
Come the second half, it was GAU who had the first chance on goal. Melliza, given room to shoot again, blasted his effort off the mark in the 60th minute. The trailing side then suffered a huge blow when Bandeken Fong got hurt during a set piece collision, 20 minutes before time. Kim Versales replaced him in goal, a change the champions took advantage of the approaching full time. Jeffrey Christiaens cheekily attempted a well-hit shot from an acute angle outside the box to pad his team’s lead to four. It kicked off a four-goal haul in the space of seven minutes, as teammates Lee and Nate Burkey breached Versales’ goal before Christiaens notched his second in the 82nd minute. The scoring did not end there, as Gerald Layumas of GAU gave his team something to cheer for, with a consolation goal tallied in the fourth of six minutes added time.
Having identified GAU as a team powered by pace and grit, Ceres Coach Go credited his team’s system of breaking down their opponents, who in the past have proven to be a stubborn bunch for Ceres-La Salle. Go also cited his decision to give his second-stringers playing time, a move that reflects his trust in the entire unit. “For me, as a team, I’m banking on everyone. Even if we sub some, we lose one player, we lose two players, we should still perform at the highest level,” he stated.
As mentioned, Global and Ceres-La Salle will fight for pole position in the last game of the first round, happening on Sunday at 4PM. Owning a superior goal difference, Ceres-La Salle can overtake Global for the top spot on goal difference with a win. A Global victory, on the other hand, will stretch their lead to six in the standings, while a draw will keep the gap at three points in favor of Global.
Meanwhile, Green Archers United will hope for a better performance when they take on Stallion just before the clash of the league heavyweights. As for Nomads, they are set to play against Pasargad FC in the early morning kickoff of 7:30 AM, also on Sunday.
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