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Kaya completes comeback against Stallion through penalties; books Finals berth

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After trailing in the match, Top-seed Kaya FC retaliated against Stallion FC in extra time, and pulled through in the penalty shootout, 5-4, to advance to the 2015 United Football League (UFL) Cup final, Tuesday evening, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

Stallion went on attack early as they peppered Nick O’Donnell with attempts. At the sixth minute, Simone Rota fired from long range and straight to opposing keeper O’Donnell. Two minutes later, Kaya’s Alfred Osei fouled Jordan Mintah inside the box, conceding a penalty kick. Rota stepped up to the spot, but his shot hit the crossbar and out. The offensive pressure of Stallion only ended when a Mintah run on the right flank was stifled by Junior Muñoz.

Kaya tried to break the deadlock at the 14th minute when Kenshiro Daniels blasted an attempt from the edge of the box that sailed wide. Daniels had another crack at goal four minutes after, but the ball went to the crossbar. Stallion then turned up their defensive intensity and denied Daniels’ pass to Tishan Hanley that ended the spell from Kaya.

From there, the visitors took control the rest of the match as they continuously sent balls into their attacking third. At the half-hour mark, Mintah delivered a lovely ball into the box, but O’Donnell plucked the ball out of harm’s way. The prolific striker was then blocked by the defense in the following play. At the 34th minute, Kaya defender Patrick Delon tackled Stallion captain Ruben Doctora, and was called for a foul. Rota fired the consequent free kick through the gap on the wall and past O’Donnell to score the breakthrough goal.

Stallion pushed for another goal in the final minutes of the first half through the efforts of Mintah and Nathan Alquiros. Nonetheless, Kaya stood their ground to trail by just a goal at half-time.

The home side went to attack at the start of the second half to overhaul the deficit. OJ Porteria, Daniels, and Alfred Osei made several runs towards the Stallion goal, but were snuffed by the defense. At the 53rd minute, the visitor’s custodian Johann Noetzel got a cross from Miguel Tanton that was intended for Daniels to stop the momentum of Kaya.

Stallion then attempted to score in the ensuing play. Substitute Shirmar Felongco doubled his team’s lead at the 54th minute, after firing off the ball past O’Donnell.

Kaya pulled out all stops to cut the deficit in the following minutes. After a buildup from the flanks, Stallion was called for a foul. Daniels’ ensuing corner kick found Delon, who tried to head it into the back of the net. Osei chipped the ball past the goal line to trim the gap to 1, 1-2. Sensing momentum, the yellow-shirts continually broke the opposing team’s backline. Three minutes from the Osei goal, Daniels had another run into the box, but David Basa was there to stop the attempt. Unfortunately for Basa, the ball bounced to his arm and he was whistled for a handball. Porteria tapped the resulting spot kick past Noetzel to level the match after an hour.

Kaya wrestled for control of the game in the next few minutes in search for the go-ahead goal. After several runs into their attacking third, the home team was rewarded a free kick at the 69th minute. Veteran Chris Greatwich sent a low cross into the box, but no one was there for the finish. Four minutes after this play, Stallion did well to clear out a Jovin Bedic cross to Daniels. To make it worse for the black-shirts, Louis Kaole was sent off due to a dangerous tackle on Porteria.

Despite having a man disadvantage, the visitors had a good run on the flanks in the following play. Rota intercepted a pass in the midfield and sent the ball towards Mintah. The Ghanaian perfectly timed his delivery back to Rota inside the box. The Azkal slid and tried to shoot the ball, but O’Donnell charged at him. Rota went down on a heap and was later rushed to the hospital on a suspected rib injury.

It was a back-and-forth action in the last minutes for both sides. Neither team broke the back of the net as the full-time came at 2-all and the match went into extra time.

Kaya had the first chance to take the lead in the extra period. At the 92nd minute, Hanley found himself unmarked inside the box, but he hesitated to take the shot and passed it back to Porteria. Stallion then tried their own attack in the following play. Two minutes after Hanley’s missed chance, Emmanuel Mbata fired from inside and was blocked by Osei for a corner kick. The visitors, however, could not convert on the ensuing corner kick from Alquiros.

The aggression turned up a notch in search of that breakthrough goal. At the 99th minute, Mintah had another run into O’Donnell’s goal and Osei tackled him before he got to shoot. The first goal scorer for Kaya was sent off on account of his second yellow as a consequence of that foul, which also conceded a free kick to Stallion. Skipper Doctora blasted the ball, but the shot went straight to the crossbar and out. The visitors, however, reclaimed the lead at the following play. Alquiros was denied by the defense, but Stallion was able to get the rebound. The ball eventually found it way to Mintah, who towered over the defense to head it in and score.

Stallion’s lead did not last long, Kaya immediately tied the match once more. Bedic sent a timely cross into the penalty area and found Diego Barrera, who headed the ball past Noetzel for the equalizer. The first half of extra time still ended on a stalemate, 3-all.

Both teams tried to gain the upperhand in the second half of extra time, but to no avail. Both squads’ defense denied any chance for their opposition to score. Noetzel intercepted shots from Greatwich, Bedic, and Louis Clark; while O’Donnell retrieved attempts from the free kicks from Mintah and Alquiros. Holding a strong defensive stance, the extra time finished with the teams knotting at 3, and the game went to a penalty shootout.

At the penalty shootout, Stallion had the first crack at the goal. Former Azkal Ian Araneta was denied by O’Donnell, who read his attempt well. The save turned out to be the turning point as the following takers slotted their spot kicks easily. Alquiros, Bervic Italia, Basa, and Doctora scored for the visitors past O’Donnell. On the other hand, Porteria, Team Captain Aly Borromeo, Daniels, and Barrera breached Noetzel’s goal line for Kaya. On his first game back from injury, Louis Clark shook off the jitters and calmly flicked the ball into the back of the net for his team’s fifth of the shootout, and secured Kaya’s trip to the Final.

Kaya Team Manager Paul Tolentino shared that he was relieved that his wards pulled through in their first victory against Stallion since 2012. “[It] was stressful for us. They sure made it hard for us to get that first win [sic]. We’re prepared to work. The message to the boys is that they need to sacrifice, so credit to the boys [on the win],” he said. When asked how monumental the win was, Tolentino remarked that, “It’s all about that AFC Cup spot. And the only way to get that spot is by winning this tournament.”

The gigantic Cup Final will be contested by Kaya FC and Ceres-La Salle FC in the main match on Friday, August 28. If Kaya wins the Cup against the League Champions, they will get that coveted AFC Cup playoff berth. On the other hand, Stallion FC will battle Loyola Meralco Sparks FC in the third-place playoff on the same date.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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