Agila MSA FC, Ceres-La Salle FC, and Loyola Meralco Sparks FC posted shutouts of varying degrees in their first matches back from the break as the 2016 United Football League continues, Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
In the first game, Agila MSA plucked their first win of the League after narrowly defeating the struggling Laos FC, 1-0.
As soon as the kickoff whistle was sounded, the former Division 2 rivals tried to mount their attacks and it was a pretty tight affair, with the Agila getting the better of the chances. Agila then started to threaten with several incursions into the box.
Rupert Baña and Konan Koffi both had looks of the goal, but none closest to Christian Castillo’s chance at the 14th minute. Castillo found himself open inside the penalty area with Felipe Tripulca to beat, only for his shot to sail wide.
Before halftime, however, Agila MSA finally got their well-deserved goal. At the 44th minute, Castillo attempted from the inside and sent the ball into the goal. Laos FC’s Respel Villaespin intercepted the shot and directed the ball to his keeper Tripulca, but instead the ball gingerly rolled past the latter and the goal line. At the break, Agila MSA was up 1-0 after the unfortunate own goal.
Second half was pretty much the same. Nonetheless, Laos FC was not void of opportunities for the equalizer both in open play and set pieces, but all of them went for naught. Agila held on to the lead and eventually got their first three points of the tournament.
In the following game, defending champions Ceres-La Salle FC marked the last game of Team Captain and Philippine national team stalwart Juani Guirado in style. The Busmen blasted Pasargad FC, 16-0, to keep pace with the leagues leaders.
Guirado announced prior to the match and he will be retiring with the club, and hence, the UFL as well, after he bid farewell from international competitions after the joint AFC Asian Cup/FIFA World Cup match against Korea DPR.
After several missed chances, Ceres finally broke the ice at the seventh minute with a goal from Adrian Gallardo off a swift counter attack. Six minutes later, Guirado’s Azkals teammate, Stephan Schröck blasted the ball into the goal to double the lead.
The 2016 AFC Cup quarterfinalists relentlessly attack the Pasargad defense with good passes and even more clinical finishes as the advantage ballooned before the break. Another Azkal, Patrick Reichelt, scored in the 29th minute from a Schröck assist. Gallardo, then Reichelt, both registered a brace minutes after, before Carli De Murga joined the scoring spree with a rebound goal at the 41st minute. Schröck then added another one before halftime to put Ceres up 7-0.
With some fresh legs, Ceres continued to dislodge the Pasargad in style. Gallardo had a monstrous game inside Pasargad’s final third as he plucked four goals in 14 minutes, as the lead grew to 10. De Murga then netted his second of day at the 75th minute, before the retiring skipper Guirado scored two minutes after. Not yet done, Schröck completed his own hat-trick at the 82nd minute, and Gallardo then put on the finishing touches with two goals in quick succession three minutes left in the match.
Ceres-La Salle Head Coach Ali Go was pleased of how his wards took the game. He noted the importance of this huge win going forward. He said, “The competition is tight, so it might go to goal difference.” Go added that it will also boost the player’s morale for their future matches.
To close out the day, Loyola Meralco Sparks FC continued the woes of the Green Archers United FC as they routed the latter, 4-0, and registered their third massive win of the League.
The Sparks added GAU into their growing list of victims after dominating from the get-go. Phil Younghusband, as if announcing his return from injury, had several chances to break the deadlock, only John Resty Gumban stood his ground on the defense.
On the other side, Chieffy Caligdong has tried to feed Hossein Doustdarzefidmazgi, but the Iranian was either called offside or the shots were off target. Making things worse, Gumban went down on an apparent leg injury and has to be replaced by former Sparks Alvin Sarmiento.
At the 32nd minute, Loyola finally netted their first of the match. James Younghusband broke free from the flank and attempted a grounder, but Ronnie Aguisanda was there inside the goal mouth. However, instead of being clearing, the ball inadvertently bounced off Aguisanda’s foot and into the goal.
Ten minutes after, Phil Younghusband scored his first goal after the long hiatus. The younger Younghusband found himself at the mercy of the goal and finished off a wonderful passing sequence to put the Sparks up, 2-0, at the interval.
As what they have done in the first, GAU attempted to score on the counter attack, only the Loyola back four was there to deny the final touch. One of these defenders even scored to put their team well ahead in the match. In the 69th minute, Phil Younghusband sent a lovely ball into the box as far as James Younghusband. The latter laid off a pass to wingback Joaco Cañas, who volleyed the ball past Henri Bendeken, for the team’s third.
Substitute Jinggoy Valmayor then drove in final goal of the match in stoppage time to seal the Sparks’ third win of the League. The former UP Fighting Maroons skipper finished off a rebound off James Younghusband’s shot to register the final tally at 4-0.
Simon McMenemy, Loyola Meralco Sparks’ Head Coach, praised his wards for a fantastic outing against the Green Archers United. He singled out Phil Younghusband and remarked, “It’s a relief to see him play again.”
The mentor shared that the return of the most recent Azkals’ Captain brought added dimension in their passing in this game. He, however, also said that, “we just need to have Phil get the ball faster, with no delays from the back.”