Fourth-seed Stallion FC dominated the first half and silenced Pachanga-Diliman FC, 5-0, to advance to the Final Four of the 2015 United Football League (UFL) Cup, Saturday evening at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Stallion started the match like a well-oiled machine by controlling possession and chances. At the seventh minute, the home side broke the deadlock. Team captain Ruben Doctora Jr. had room to operate on the left wing and blasted the ball past opposing keeper Ace Villanueva. After the goal, Stallion kept their aggression on offense, while holding the visitors off their backline.
After a series of opportunities from both teams, Stallion doubled their lead at the 22nd minute. Jordan Mintah outsmarted Villanueva with a lob shot that went into the back of the net. The Ghanian forward almost doubled his output just seconds after, but the goalie collected the shot this time.
Ten minutes after the Mintah goal, the green-shirts were rewarded with another goal. Doctora, who was tightly guarded in the middle, sent the ball to Fitch Arboleda on the right wing. The U23 Azkal guided the ball into the onion bag for his team’s third. Despite the scoreline, Stallion kept on attacking; which stifled the Pachanga-Diliman defense.
The black-shirts tried to answer from a counterattack, and were finally able to bring the ball into their attacking third. Unfortunately, Hamed Hajimehdi did not convert on several chances from set pieces. The Pachanga skipper also found his compatriot, Hossein Doustdarsefidmazgi, on the right flank at the 37th minute; nonetheless the speedy winger’s attempt was denied by the compact Stallion defense.
The home side then put the match out of reach even before the halftime whistle was blown. At the 43rd minute, they were able to set-up an attack after a muffed shot from Doctora. Simone Rota found Mintah inside the box, who tapped the ball into the goal to pad their lead going into the break, 4-0.
At the start of the second half, Pachanga-Diliman showed their eagerness to get something on their side of the scoreboard. Five minutes from the restart, Jinggoy Valmayor delivered a pass to Hajimehdi, who fired straight into the hands of Stallion custodian Johann Noetzel. In the succeeding play, Valmayor found himself unmarked on the left side, only to send it to the side netting.
With the missed attempts from Pachanga-Diliman, Stallion capitalized on their following runs towards the visitor’s final third. At the 56th minute, Mintah received a pass from the midfield with only Jed Rances to beat. The Stallion striker weaved past the defender and fired a shot past the late help defense from Yves De-Luis and substitute keeper Steve Yambou to register his team’s fifth and final goal.
It was back-and-forth action in the succeeding minutes as either team searched for another goal. However, the missed chances from set pieces continued to haunt Pachanga-Diliman’s hope of finding a consolation goal. On the other hand, Stallion picked up their defensive intensity in the final minutes to block the last-gasp attempts from their opponents. The final whistle sounded with Stallion celebrating a 5-0 win and clinching a semifinals showdown against the top-seed Kaya.
Stallion Head Coach Ernie Nierras was pleased that his boys were able to play the way they trained for the match. “We knew they would hold back and play that way, we had to get the ball over the top and we were able to do that early,” he said. The mentor was also thankful that Sam Bonney and Shirmar Felongco played well on their return from injury, emphasizing how Bonney anchored the backline and how Felongco set chances on offense. The Stallion coach went on to say that they have trained specifically for each game of the Cup since the knockout phase started, so they will be ready every time they step on the pitch.
The titanic battle for the Final seat between Stallion FC and Kaya FC will happen on Tuesday, August 25 at the same venue.
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