After a two-game slide, Stallion brought their “winner attitude” and pulled the rag off Kaya FC, 2-0, at the continuing 2015 United Football League (UFL) Division I action on Sunday evening, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Both teams started slow during the first few minutes of the game, as neither team gained control of the midfield and ball possession. Fifteen minutes into the first half, Kaya’s Jim Junior Muñoz found some room to operate, but he was tackled by the defense to fend off passes into the attacking third. However, it was Stallion who had the first chance to score.
At the 26th minute, a corner kick was awarded to the green-shirts. Nathan Alquiros sent the ball to the box, but only the subsequent attempt of Samuel Bonney did not find its intended target. The home squad repeatedly had chances via set pieces, however, they were not able to capitalize.
Before the halftime whistle is sounded, Kaya took chances to break the deadlock. At the 43rd minute, OJ Porteria connected with Miguel Tanton, who shot wide. Two minutes after, Diego Barrera attempted a shot directly from a corner kick, but Stallion Keeper, Johann Noetzel, was there to collect. Sensing momentum, Kaya managed to make more attempts during extension time, nonetheless, Stallion’s defense held. The first half ended with neither team putting something on the scoreboard.
It was a different second half, however, as both teams were able to run their offense. Kaya was finally rewarded with the first golden chance of the period after several runs towards the Stallion goal. At the 53rd minute, Stallion’s Bonney was called for a handball infraction inside the box, when he tried to stop a cross from the opponent. The returning Forward Louis Clark calmly slotted the penalty kick into the back of the net to finally end the stalemate.
Despite the lead, the black-shirts tried to add more goals to their tally. Porteria continued his brilliant performance as he kept on delivering timely passes and crosses towards his team’s forwards. A minute before the hour mark, the former Azkal found the dangerous Tishan Hanley at the top of the box. The Kittian international blasted a shot from a distance forcing Noetzel to pull off a spectacular save. Furthermore, Stallion’s defense again muffed any attempt from their opponent.
With a chance at second spot at the line, Stallion picked up the pace and went for the equalizer quickly. At the succeeding play, the home squad advanced the ball into their attacking third. A foul was called on Kaya conceding a free kick to the green-shirts, at the 61st minute. Simone Rota sent the ball into the six-yard box, and Captain Ruben Doctora headed it past opposing custodian, Nick O’Donnell, for the tying goal.
In the succeeding minutes, it was a tightly contested battle knowing the implications of a win on either team’s chances to finish as runners-up and a possible 2016 AFC Cup playoff berth. Both teams had a chance to go ahead, but shots from Kaya’s Clark and Stallion’s Bervic Italia would not go through the back of the net. Stallion, who was on a mission, notched what consequently was the winning goal. At the 79th minute, Mintah intercepted the ball against the run of play and fired the ball into the onion bag, past O’Donnell, to wrestle the lead for his team. The match ended with Stallion stealing the full points and the victory over Kaya to force a tie against their victims for fourth spot at present.
Stallion Head Coach Ernie Nierras was definitely pleased with how his boys played. The mentor exclaimed, “That’s a [very] good game.” Nierras felt that his wards vindicated themselves after openly uttering his disappointment on their performance in the last two games. “They played like winners,” he stated. When asked on what he felt was the key to their victory, the former women’s national team tactician shared that, “We know we will be playing undermanned. [However,] they were able to control the midfield and to hold themselves [on defense.]”
The race for the second place finish gets tighter in the next few matches with both Stallion and Kaya gunning for the coveted spot. The former will face league champions Ceres-La Salle on Sunday, August 2. Meanwhile, the latter will battle against Global on Saturday, August 1.