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Kouassi hattrick drives Manila Jeepney to initial Cup win



United Football League (UFL) Division I mainstays Manila Jeepney bounced from their first game loss as they pounced Forza FC, 4-2, in the ongoing 2015 UFL Cup action, Saturday, May 16 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

It was a tight battle in the first few minutes of the match as both teams attempted to break the opposing defense. Manila Jeepney had the better of the chances on goal when they were able to send the ball into their attacking third, which their forwards shot just wide or blocked. Both teams tried long passes and short passes, and in the 24th minute, the away team’s Eric Giganto made the first decent shot of the match, only to be denied by Forza goalkeeper Jaysan Galarrita. That just fuelled the Division I side as just four minutes after that opportunity, Koffi Kouassi had a decent run to the goal despite, being supported by Nicolas Ferrer, the striker took it to himself and shot the ball pass Galarrita for the opening goal.

Forza had a chance to equalize at the succeeding play from restart but the shot of Gio Diamante hit the crossbar and went out. At the 31st minute, Manila Jeepney doubled their lead. Alvaro Alfonso received a pass from the right and tucked the ball into the back of the net for the dark shirts’ second goal. At the 38th minute, the home squad pushed for a goal back. Amadou Ngom fired from long distance; nonetheless, his shot did not bother RJ Joyel as it sailed wide. A minute before the end of the first half, the visitors blocked an attempt by Jangobah Johnson. Few seconds before the halftime whistle, Johnson again broke free from the defense and passed it to Ngom, who was called offside. The first half ended with the Division I team leading 2-0.

Picking up from where they left off in the last few minutes of the first period, Forza continued to search for a goal. Just five minutes into the second half, Maxime Tetang was left unmarked on the right flank and guided the ball into the goal to put his team on the scoreboard and cut the deficit to 1, 1-2. The goals blew the game wide as both squads played better on the offense and the defense became more open. At the 52nd minute, Manila Jeepney got into the box and Sam Bamba was called for a handball inside the box. Kouassi calmly sank the penalty for his second goal and restored his team’s two-goal cushion, 3-1.

The game continued to hang in the balance as both teams pushed for more goals. In the 68th minute, after several attempts, Johnson finally broke the backline of the leading team to cut the gap back to a solitary goal, 2-3. Just two minutes after the goal, Giganto found Kouassi for a timely assist inside the box for the tall forward’s hattrick and their team’s fourth goal of the match. The defense of either squad went to work as they snuffed further chances and the match ended with Manila Jeepney FC walking away with their first victory of the cup.

Man of the Match Kouassi expressed his delight that they got their first win of the Cup. He added, “[It has been a] long time already; we haven’t had that kind of feeling, [being] happy.” The striker also shared his pride that he helped his team on offense. Kouassi credited his teammates on this regard. He said, “Yes, because they give you good balls and you finish it, it will make you happy, and especially when you score.” Going forward, he, along with his team, is optimistic of their chances in the Cup. “Hopefully, we get a chance to win the two games and go to the quarterfinal of the Cup. We’ll work hard for that,” he ended.

Manila Jeepney will try to kept the winning run going against Laos on Saturday, May 23, while Forza will try to bounce back against Nomads on the first game of the same playing date.

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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