Stallion uncorked their UFL Cup 2015 campaign by winning comfortably, 4-1, over Mendiola FC 1991 Sunday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Jordan Mintah’s first half hattrick and a second half wonder strike from Jojo Borromeo were too much for the UFL Division 2 squad to handle but were not unfazed by their stellar opponents as striker Connor Tacagni also figured in the scoresheet.
As expected in a match between teams in first and second division, it was Stallion who totally controlled the first half of the match. More active with much of possession, the team currently second in Division I patiently broke down the resolute Mendiola FC 1991 defense. Levi Gilmar Fernandez had the first chance of the game six minutes into the match but was not able to strike on target after dribbling a few yards closer into the Mendiola goal. At the same minute, Mintah linked up with Fitch Arboleda but the latter’s return pass off a one-two was too strong to reach his teammate. Not long after, the 2013 UFL League Champions finally got themselves on the board. Along the left hand side, Ruben Doctora Jr. fed Mintah the ball before the striker managed to guide the ball past Mendiola keeper Christian Jayloni. The Ghanaian forward was heavily involved in Stallion’s offensive sequences after managing to strike the woodwork at the 15th minute. Before that, he had a half volley from outside the box stopped by Jayloni and a near assist to Doctora whose shot was blocked by Neil Dorimon from around 10 yards. Given another chance just 16 minutes after kick-off, Mintah made sure to pad Stallion’s advantage. Upon gathering the Ian Araneta pass from outside the box, Mintah turned to shrug off his marker before scoring his and Stallion’s second of the game with a well-placed shot into the bottom right corner.
Not willing to sit back any longer, Mendiola FC 1991 tried to get one back almost instantly care of Elnie Dorimon. He received a decent pass from Miguel Caindec but could not find a way past the Stallion defense. Dorimon’s deflected cross resulted in a corner instead, which produced a more dangerous chance for Mendiola. At the 21st minute, a cleared corner delivery invited Geno Dalampan to smash the ball from long range but Stallion goalkeeper Johann Neotzel was able to tip it behind. Four minutes before the half hour mark, Mintah and Stallion FC made their opponents pay by seemingly building an assailable lead when the 21-year-old forward completed his hattrick by cheekily floating the ball just inside the far post, much to the dismay of the helpless Jayloni. Chances continued to fall for Mintah but neither of the next two he had altered the score line. With 15 minutes left in the first half, he unsuccessfully attempted a bicycle kick. At the following minute, he blasted a decent chance from inside the box wide.
Just before halftime, Mendiola looked to find a way back into the game by reducing the gap to at least two. Tacagni’s cross found teammate Ashley Flores inside the box but the latter did not keep his effort low, to the relief of Neotzel. The Stallion keeper became uneasy before the break but was alert enough to deal with shots from captain Jay Soberano and Flores to keep it 3-0 in favor of his team at the half.
Much like the opening half, Stallion dictated the pace in the second. They still lorded over possession and chances created but were tested by Mendiola’s counter attacking approach. Fernandez had a lot of good looks but failed to convert in any of those, partly due to Mendiola’s compact defending inside their defending third. On the other end, Mendiola’s struggles of breaching Stallion’s defense was eased by a neat play involving Flores and Tacagni. Flores, stationed at right wing, had enough room to send a sublime cross to the rushing Tacagni who got on to the ball just in time to score against Neotzel.
With 33 minutes of football left to be played, Mendiola looked like they were back in the game. That was not the case though as Stallion only made things more difficult for Mendiola defensively, forcing the players in black to stay in their own half. Mintah and Jojo Borromeo were bothering the Mendiola fullbacks with their crafty play down the wing. There was nearly a fourth goal for Stallion just a minute after the hour mark when Borromeo’s deflected cross landed in front of Doctora. The Ilonggo only had keeper Jayloni between him and the goal but his shot was blocked by the goalkeeper. Not long after blowing several chances away, Stallion restored their lead to three thanks to Borromeo. The substitute received the ball after Doctora was clamped down by Mendiola defenders in the box. With his first touch, he gave the opposing keeper no chance as he booted the ball with great technique to smack the crossbar before falling into the top corner. Philippine international Simone Rota wanted to join the goal scoring party late in the game, but his two chances from around 25 yards did not bother the already troubled Jayloni. Similarly in the first half, Mendiola refused to go down without a fight. A couple of good chances in the last 10 minutes of play forced Neotzel into action. E. Dorimon and Soberano struck well but lacked the quality to put the ball into the back of the net. Full time came eventually with Stallion unsurprisingly starting off their Cup bid barely scathed.
“We’re a little bit slow and rusty because of the long break… a win is still a win,” Stallion Coach Ernie Nierras stated, slightly with relief, after seeing his team dominate their Division 2 foes despite needing more improvements in several aspects of their game. He was also happy to witness quality players Araneta and Fernandez play for his side after the duo faced a considerably long layoff from football.
Nierras’ unit will be tested in their next UFL Cup game, slated on May 9 at 6:15PM against Loyola Meralco Sparks. Meanwhile, Mendiola FC 1991 will be targeting to play better when they clash with Group C leaders JP Voltes FC on the same day, at 8:30PM.
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