Adjustments in the second half paved way to a comfortable 4-0 win for Stallion FC against JP Voltes FC in both teams’ final United Football League (UFL) Cup group stage match Sunday evening at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
The scoreline, however, did little justice in reflecting the complexion of the match. JP Voltes made things more difficult for Stallion who fielded an experimental frontline led by Nicko Villacin. The DLSU defender got the ball rolling by heading Jose Lozano’s cross wide at the sixth minute. Stallion continued to press with the hopes of scoring the first goal thru shots coming from Levi Fernandez, Simone Rota, and Ian Araneta but none of those players got to register a goal in the opening 20 minutes. A really close chance for Stallion to score came when Christian Thomert Nana headed Ruben Doctora Jr.’s header on target. However, JP Voltes goalie Mark Sorongon was able to stop the ball from rolling over the line.
As the game stayed scoreless, JP Voltes nearly benefitted from a Stallion defensive lapse. Renando Mantua Jr. attempted to score from long distance. Just when it was about to fall into the goal, Stallion custodian Johann Neotzel punched the ball away. Instead, it rolled closer towards the frame. Thankfully for Stallion, Samuel Bonney cleared the ball in acrobatic fashion to prevent Stallion from falling behind disastrously. The top flight squad kept on holding the ball for most of the match but they struggled to penetrate JP Voltes’ disciplined defending. The first half ended with no goals scored by each team.
Noticing his team lacking the creativity up front, Ernie Nierras of Stallion deployed Hordan Mintah and Emmanuel Mbata to replace Villacin and Lozano. He also introduced Milan Arends in the game by taking Fernandez off the field. In revamping his frontline, Nierras witnessed a rejuvenated Stallion team who scored three times in the space of just seven minutes. The first of those goals arrived ten minutes into the second half, Nana weaved past the JP Voltes defense before unleashing a magnificent strike that sailed into the bottom corner near the far post to give Stallion the lead. Four minutes later, substitute Mbata used his speed to gain ground and set up Rota who made no mistake in scoring off his second touch to double the lead. Not long after, Mintah broke free from his markers to tee up Jojo Borromeo who tucked home the ball into the net, giving Stallion an unassailable three-goal lead. The leading team created several more chances heading into full time but none of the chances in normal time counted. As the game was about to end, Mbata placed a delicate pass to free Rota who put the icing on the cake by scoring his second and Stallion’s fourth.
“I didn’t want to sub. I wanted to play with my first half people but obviously it wasn’t working so I had to make substitutions,” declared Stallion coach Nierras. He also revealed that he attempted to experiment in this game, which he assessed was a good time to do so. “I want to win, so I made adjustments in the second half,” Nierras added. With the UFL Cup going into a Round of 16 rather than a quarterfinal stage right away, both teams qualify into the next round with Stallion assured of at least a top two seed. Meanwhile, JP Voltes finish the group stage in third and will likely face a tougher opponent.