There were feelings of anticipation and excitement before Kaya Football Club took on Kitchee Sports Club last Tuesday that the former will be the first ever Philippine football club to have entered the knockout stages of a continental tournament. Despite the fact that Kaya lost to Kitchee in their first 2016 AFC Cup match, confidence was high as they won three on the bounce.
However, Kaya and their fans were brought back down to earth in cruel fashion.
With the game still scoreless and just five minutes left on the clock, Kitchee midfielder Lam Ka Wai delivered a good ball from a corner kick which hit the crossbar. Kaya players were caught ball-watching as the away side’s substitute Harima Hirokane calmly directed the ball into the net at the 85th minute.
With the minutes left, Kaya pushed on for the equalizer but Kitchee goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng was relatively untested. There would be no late goals this time for Kaya as they were left to lick their wounds after the final whistle.
“When you play a team as good as Kitchee, if you make a mistake they’ll punish you and that’s exactly what they did. We were switched off for that corner,” Kaya playmaker OJ Porteria lamented. “It hit the post, came out and we were just flat and they scored a goal.”
“They are gonna punish you if you make one mistake, two mistakes. They’re gonna punish you.”
Another Kaya player, Anton Ugarte, was also visibly disappointed after the match. Ugarte quipped, “Disappointing. We had a lot of chances to win so it’s definitely not what we’re expecting. I think we just had a bit of lack of concentration for just one instance in the game and that was it.”
“I think we created a lot of good chances. We had a few chances to put in away as well. It would have been a different game if we did.”
Before the game, a point would have been enough to see Kaya through to the knockout stages. Porteria, though, firmly said that aiming to not go for the win was against the club’s ethos: “Kaya is not the type of team that’s gonna sit and get a draw. We want to win every single game. We have no regrets with on how we played. It was just one lapse of judgment.”
“We’re not the type of team to feel pressure. If anything, (New Radiant) had the pressure,” he added. “They had the pressure to win today and that’s exactly what they did. It’s just unfortunate.”
One factor which was expected to harm Kitchee’s chances was Manila’s excruciating heat. Unexpectedly, each half had two water breaks. The 21 year old Fil-Am felt that those water breaks in each half aided Kitchee. “I think it was more of a factor for them. We can feel that they were getting tired in the first half but the water breaks in the halves definitely helped them out. I think that kind of evened it out. We have two water breaks in forty-five minutes so I’m pretty sure you’ll be okay,” the playmaker reflected
On an individual note, Porteria will sit-out Kaya’s next 2016 AFC Cup fixture due to suspension. Nevertheless, he turned down fears of what his absence might bring. “There’s more than eleven players in Kaya so everybody is capable of playing well and taking that number ten position,” he said.
“I‘ll just have to be there for my team off the pitch. I have to be there and support them all throughout New Radiant.”
Up next for Kaya is New Radiant away at the Maldives on Tuesday, May 10. While Balestier Khalsa dropping points to Kitchee will secure Kaya a slot in the next round, the players knew what they had to do to ensure qualification. “Well I think we have to win to see us through,” Ugarte closed.
Likewise, Porteria expounded, “I feel like we have to put it in our own hands and just win the next game and just forget about this game.”
Kaya has shown that they are more than capable of winning away matches in the continent. Expect them to pull off a result on May 10, 2016 and join Ceres-La Salle FC as the Philippines’ representatives in the 2016 AFC Cup knockout round.
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