After an enjoyable 90 minutes of football, Team Rest of the World came out on top with a 5-4 win over Team Philippines in the main event of the UFL All-Star match, held at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Senegalese Robert Lopez Mendy, who plays his club football for Green Archers United, made the most difference in the star-studded affair by sneaking in three wonderful second-half goals, which were enough to give the foreigner-filled selection the victory.
The game started brightly with both teams looking to open the scoring as soon as possible. Louis Clark of Kaya had a go on goal four minutes after kick off, but he drove his shot wide of the far post. It was the Filipinos’ turn three minutes later, and they did not waste their first clear chance of the match. OJ Porteria located Misagh Bahadoran inside the box before the Global FC talisman took time to smash the ball past his club teammate, Roland Sadia, to make it 1-0 for Team Philippines. At the 10th minute mark, Porteria tried his luck from a distance, but could not force a save from Sadia. A few moments after, Phil Younghusband tested the Global goalkeeper twice, but was unable to get the better of Sadia, who stood alert after conceding the match’s first goal. The locals dominated the match with Martin Steuble launching a shot only for Sadia to get a hand on it.
Midway through the first half, Oladipo Okunaiya had chances to score from set pieces, but neither were successful in beating Louie Casas. Thirty-four minutes into the match, Team Philippines Coach, Ali Roxas Go, had to withdraw Misagh Bahadoran and Daisuke Sato due to club commitments. In their place came two brilliant local players, Chris Greatwich and Anton del Rosario, two of the 2010 Azkals who played under Rest of the World mentor, Simon McMenemy. Just before the halftime whistle sounded, David Icardo smacked his shot over Casas and into the top corner to equalize for Team Rest of the World. At the half, it was 1-1.
Several changes took place in the second half, as both coaches looked to give playing time to the players selected to feature in this stellar encounter. Amongst all of them, it was Lopez Mendy who made the biggest difference. His first goal came from a free kick, which was a result of a foul committed by Guirado. The advantage did not last long though as Simone Rota drilled in a thunderous volley to tie the game again at 2-all. What soon transpired was an exhibition of goalkeeping with Patrick Deyto and Henri Bandeken Fong making enormous stops to deny the Younghusbands and Clark to score the game’s fifth goal.
As a penalty shootout began to loom large in the minds of everyone in the venue, Clark got to squeeze in the ball past Deyto to make it 3-2 for the men in orange. It was just the first of three quick goals that came as a shock to the Filipinos. Lopez Mendy converted twice off nifty assists from Clark and Lee Jeong Woo to suddenly build a huge 5-2 lead for Team Rest of the World. Nonetheless, Team Philippines did not give up with Nate Burkey leading a late charge. He was involved in both of the late goals scored by the blue-clad players. The first was a penalty he slotted after winning it due to a foul committed by Bandeken Fong just inside the box, with only four minutes left in regulation. Just before stoppage time, he broke free from the Team Rest of the World defense before setting up del Rosario to make it 5-4. The three minutes of added time seemed to have everyone on the edge of their seats, but it was not enough for Team Philippines to draw level. Game ended 5-4 in favor of McMenemy’s lads.
“It’s an exhibition game, I can’t take any credit. I’m just a passenger really. They play up against these guys every week. It’s just interesting seeing foreign players play against local players. It’s a pleasure,” stated McMenemy. Go offered the same sentiments as he said, “We played good, but we have to take out some of our players due to club commitments. All in all, I’m happy with how we performed. Nine goals. It’s good for the crowd.”
Man of the Match, Lopez Mendy, felt honored to be a part of such a match that included players who regularly start for their respective clubs in the UFL. “We need to show them that we can be more to than what they think about. Show them we are good. That’s why we left the our country and came here to play,” he uttered.
Overall, the UFL All-Star event was a resounding success. UFL Technical Director expressed delight with the way things turned out today. “We’re very happy with the turnout. We hope that every match day we have this kind of crowd. With the kids and the families coming to the matches, it’s a good thing that families are already starting to recognize the value of football and what it teaches the kids, and we hope to see more of these kids and the fans watching the UFL,” he said.
NOTE: Before the UFL-All Star game between Team Philippines and Team Rest of the World started, there was a game played by the UFL XI and the UFL Youth 100, where the latter emerged winners in the fun-filled affair, 4-1. Binibining Pilipinas winners led by Pia Wurtzbach also graced the event to show support for Operation Smile Philippines, the beneficiary foundation of the event. Proceeds of ticket and merchandise sales went to the said foundation which attends to the needs of people with facial deformities.