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Kaya survives hard-fought battle against archrivals Loyola

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A “lucky” goal late in the match completed Kaya FC’s comeback effort against archrivals Loyola Meralco Sparks FC in their second round meeting of the United Football League (UFL), Saturday evening at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Kaya FC, down 1-0 in the first half, found strength to aggressively attack their adversary in the payoff period to come out on top, 3-2.

It was a highly offensive first half between title chasers Kaya FC and Loyola Meralco Sparks. This began four minutes into the game with Loyola making two great shot attempts care of team captain Phil Younghusband, and Anton del Rosario. On the other side of the pitch, Kaya matched Loyola’s offensive barrage and had decent attacks of their own. In the fifth minute, Kaya forward OJ Porteria launched a shot to try and end the deadlock. A few minutes later, the Kaya forward had another clear shot at goal. The ball, however, ended up being cleared by Loyola goalkeeper Tomas Trigo.

Both teams continued to have great looks at the net only to be denied by the opposing team’s defense. It was at the 23rd minute that the momentum swung to the side of Meralco. Max Wright having possession of the ball in the middle of the pitch, gracefully lobbed the ball up front to a rushing Brad Grayson. The Brit got into their team’s attacking third, and found himself with enough space. The striker skillfully chipped the ball over Kaya custodian Nick O’Donnell, and into the net. Despite the lead, Meralco was relentless in pressuring Kaya’s defense. The team in yellow, remained strong to hold the line and prevent further damage. The half ended in favor of Meralco, 1-0.

The second half was a complete opposite of the first. This time, it was Kaya FC who were able to grab the momentum from the resumption of play. With their side constantly bombarding Loyola’s defense, Kaya managed to equalize 10 minutes after the restart. Miguel Tanton found Chris Greatwich nearby inside the box. The former Azkal easily sneaked in the ball with Trigo out of his line. With the score tied, both teams tried to get ahead of each other. It was Loyola who got the go-ahead goal at the 70th minute. Grayson, despite the traffic inside the penalty box, headed in a cross from his teammate del Rosario and gave his team a 2-1 lead. Being ahead by a point, Loyola found new life as they once again controlled the pace of the game. Kaya, on the other hand did not settle to just prohibiting the Sparks from scoring, and tried to find an opening to level the match.

An opportunity to equalize presented itself to Kaya at the 81st minute; the Englishman Louis Clark stripped the ball from the Loyola backline. He then found himself in a one-on-one situation with Loyola goalie Trigo. Seeing the Loyola’s last man closing in, Clark hurriedly fired the ball near the top of the box. To the striker’s delight, the ball connected with the onion bag to tie the score line at 2.

Having left with little time, both teams tried to push for the game-clinching goal. With just a minute left in the game, Kaya was lucky enough to snatch a point. Once again, the American-born OJ Porteria found himself with acres of space and desperately slammed the ball towards the net. It however landed in the hands of Trigo. Luckily for Kaya, the Azkal reserve keeper, fumbled the ball off of his hands. Fortunately for the men in yellow, the ball went past the goal line to give the game-clinching score to the Fabien Lewis-mentored team. The final whistle sounded with a 3-2 scoreline for Kaya.

The recently appointed Kaya Head Coach Fabien Lewis admitted that luck played a part in his team’s victory. “What can I say, in football you win some with luck, but luck doesn’t come to any team, you have to deserve and you have to work for it.” he explained. He was also very happy that his team was able to bounce back from their recent loss and had the strength to get the positive result against their bitter rivals. They will now prepare for their next challenge, league leaders Ceres-La Salle FC whom they will face on July 19. Loyola, on the other hand, will battle the eighth-placed Pachanga-Diliman FC on July 22.

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