Division II side Pasargad made the most of two penalties taken by center back Iyke Ogochukwu to score a 2-1 win at the expense of Bright Star FC in Group A action of the United Football League (UFL) Cup 2015 Sunday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Pasargad created more chances than Bright Star in the opening half, starting with Federico Fariñas’s pass to Michael Ebare five minutes into the game. Ebare had the chance to beat Bright Star goalkeeper Valentino Tolentino but the latter timed his movement well to clear the ball from danger. Shortly, Ebare tried to set up his teammates. His first cross was alertly collected by Tolentino and the second was skied by Claude Jean Delos Reyes at the 12th minute. Three minutes later, Ebare’s forward pass prompted Tolentino to surge forward as he avoided a Pasargad chance from occurring. The risky move paid dividends, with the Bright Star goalie able to send the ball away.
For much of the opening half, the ball was played in the middle of the park. After defending for quite some time, Bright Star registered their first chance in the match. Deney Salazar tried to put his team ahead but his shot was saved by Albert Llevares. In response, Pasargad looked to spare themselves from going behind by becoming more aggressive in the attacking third. Nicanor Palacio and Ajah Miki, however, failed to capitalize on their chances. At the 20th minute, Palacio linked up with Promise Jolomi in the middle before shrugging off two defenders for him to shoot. Unfortunately for the Filipino midfielder, the shot rolled wide to the left.
More shots came from both sides, but Pasargad thought they should be leading with the way they were able to get chances inside the Bright Star box. After a frustrating array of shots from their frontline, Jolomi was fouled by Amara Diabate inside the box. As a result, Ogochukwu broke the deadlock by clinically smashing home the ball into the net with two minutes left in the first period. At the half, Pasargad went ahead by a lone goal.
After the restart, Pasargad picked up where they left off. Their determined approach to increase their lead resulted in several missed opportunities. At the hour mark, Pasargad’s Jolomi was fouled for the second time in the penalty area, this time by Randy Salisad. Just like in the first instance, Ogochukwu converted his second to make it 2-0 for Pasargad, who remained dominant until the final whistle. Delos Reyes almost scored his team’s third at the 64th minute but his strike only clipped the post.
With only 13 minutes remaining in the match, Mathurin Yao pulled one back for Bright Star. He got through the Pasargad back line before beating Llevares to slot the ball in. Perhaps alarmed, Pasargad pushed forward, albeit unsuccessfully, to prevent them from squandering a 2-0 lead. Substitute Titus Kamara was halted from close range and Junior Kariay’s shot sailed over Tolentino’s goal inside the last 12 minutes of the match. Alessandro Esposito almost made them pay at the 87th minute but he was not able to gather enough power to get the ball past Llevares. Eventually, the final whistle sounded with Pasargad gaining their first points of the UFL Cup.
“The players worked hard for it. They were able to do what we planned. We were able to check on our the weaknesses of our opponents and able to maximize the strength of our players. That’s why we were able to get the two penalties which led to the two goals,” Pasargad coach Michael Agbayani. The coach sees potential in his team, but for them to do better against tougher opponents, one aspect of their game needs improvement. “There were a lot but we have to work on our finishing. We also have to work on combination plays on the attacking third. We need to work as a team,” he concluded.
It appears that Pasargad and Bright Star have concluded their UFL Cup 2015 campaigns in the process. Despite the win, Pasargad will not be able to get enough points to leapfrog second-placed Green Archers United. Due to Philippine Army’s withdrawal from the competition, both Pasargad and Green Archers United will be awarded three points automatically. With that taken into account, Green Archers United still lead Pasargad by three points. Bright Star, meanwhile, played all of their four scheduled group stage matches wherein they failed to win any of those.