Stallion FC repeatedly denied the last-gasp attempts by the Green Archers United FC, 3-2, and booked themselves a place in the semifinals of the 2016 United Football League Cup, Saturday evening at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
GAU had some initiative at the start of the match, but the attempt the Stallion defense denied Jhan-Jhan Melliza’s run to the goal. That shook off Stallion and they wrested control of the match. Several white-shirts made cuts into the attacking third, only Joshua Beloya, Ashley Flores, and Ruben Doctora failed to finish on the opportunities.
After some chances by the GAU on their counter-attacks, Stallion won the ball in the midfield and the opponent was left to commit a foul. At the ensuing free kick at the 20th minute, skipper Doctora laid out a short pass to Simone Rota perfectly struck the ball low and into the bottom right corner to take the breakthrough goal. Doctora himself almost doubled the lead three minutes after had he not muffed a long shot.
The Black-Shirts then finally managed to break through the opposing defense with captain Chieffy Caligdong leading the charge. At the 31st minute, GAU had their very first clear chance at a goal but Caligdong was stopped by Stallion keeper Cuaresma. Koreans Nam Gi Won and Lee Joo Young searched for an equalizer. However, Stallion was able to keep the score at 1-0 going into the half.
With several missed chances, former National Team captain Caligdong finally broke his silence four minutes after the resumption of the match. It was a similar story to Rota’s goal as Stallion committed a foul at the edge of the box, conceding a free kick to Green Archers United. However, unlike the previous shot, Caligdong took it upon himself and smashed the ball for the tying goal. At the 54th minute, GAU was rewarded a chance to take the lead. Lee’s free kick, though, from the other side was collected this time by Cuaresma.
The two teams settled down and created more chances into their respective attacking thirds. After that missed chance by GAU, Stallion plucked an opportunity against the run of play, but the defense was there to stifle the chance. Doctora, however, would not let this chance go to waste as he successfully converted from a follow up off a corner kick to get back the lead at 2-1.
Stallion kept the pressure on and the squad was able to double the lead with two minutes left in regulation. Fitch Arboleda found himself with some room inside the box and slotted the ball past substitute keeper Kim Versales.
Just as Stallion felt that their progression into the next round was secured, Caligdong plucked a stunning goal just as stoppage time started. The GAU captain was left unmarked at the edge of penalty area and caught Cuaresma off-guard with a cannonball. That goal sparked a last-ditch effort for his team. Nonetheless, Stallion was able to hold on and book their ticket to the semifinals.
Stallion FC head coach Ernie Nierras gave credit to his team’s relentless spirit for the win. “We played the way we’re supposed to play,” he said. The mentor reiterated that he believes GAU is of the hardest teams for his squad to beat, but he was happy that his wards pulled through.
Stallion FC will face the winner of the JP Voltes FC-Global FC quarterfinals in the Cup semifinals, while Green Archers United FC tackles on the losing team of that match up for the Plate’s Final Four.
Photo by UFL Images