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Super subs steer Ceres to Group A pole; GAU settle for second

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Four substitutes were involved in all of the second half goals scored by Ceres-La Salle FC to come from behind and defeat Green Archers United FC with the score of 4-1. Group A action of the UFL Cup 2015 concluded with Ceres finishing above GAU on points.

Both teams sealed their progress into the quarterfinals last week but the top seed of Group A, which also meant facing Global FC, is far from settled. GAU needed to beat Ceres for them to claim top spot, as Ceres owned a better goal difference. Things looked promising for GAU in as early as the third minute when Robert Lopez Mendy put them in front. The Senegalese striker received a pass from Chieffy Caligdong down the left wing before breaking away from Jason Sabio to earn enough space in beating Ceres goalkeeper Louie Casas. It placed GAU in a commanding position simply because they will become Group A winners should they end up with a win. However, there was still a lot of playing time left for Ceres to turn the match around, or perhaps for GAU to pad their lead.

After conceding, Ceres worked hard to get themselves level with GAU but the latter squad recorded the second big chance of the game. Caligdong proved too much for Ceres’ right flank to deal with once more with the Ilonggo winger finding Jhan Jhan Melliza but the former FEU Tamaraw did not keep his shot low enough to score his team’s second. Afterwards, Ceres dictated the first half’s flow with GAU making the most out of their pace in counter attacks.

GAU goalie Paolo Pascual and his backline were relatively tested in the last 25 minutes or so by the determined Ceres frontline. Ceres created nine chances, although most of which led to easy catches for Pascual. In the middle of their quest for a game-tying goal, Ceres took a blow when Patrick Reichelt needed to be replaced by Carmelo Tacusalme after picking up an injury.

The Negrense club’s best chance came at the 29th minute. Oladipo Okunaiya’s cross found Adrian Gallardo who was kept from hitting the target by three players in white. The ball then reached Paul Mulders whose shot was blocked. Gallardo managed to get the rebound but he blasted his shot high and wide. Ceres were unable to grab an equalizer but it could have gone worse for them. Deep into the added time of the first half, Lopez Mendy attempted from long range. Fortunately for Ceres, Casas was able to get his hands on the shot to avoid his team from falling two goals down.

The hungrier of the two teams, Ceres played with more urgency. At the 49th minute, Sabio nearly scored for the current UFL Division I leaders as he struck nicely from 25 yards but Pascual tipped the ball out of play. The Philippine international shot again in the ensuing play but he saw his header only hitting the side netting. Afterwards, Okunaiya and Martin Steuble fired just wide prior to the hour mark. At that time, it looked like it was only a matter of time for Ceres to tie the match.

After playing behind for an hour, Ceres’ pursuit for a goal was rewarded at the 63rd minute. Lee shrugged off GAU’s defenders to give himself acres of space inside the box. Calmly, the Korean beat Pascual with a perfectly struck shot that the latter had no chance of reaching. Disgruntled that they lost their lead, GAU were in for a bigger shock a minute later. Gallardo located Bienvenido Marañon, who also came on as a substitute like Lee. With only Pascual between him and the goal, Marañon slid the ball nicely to instantly put Ceres ahead.

Already in front after trailing for most of the game, Ceres scored two more goals that guaranteed them all the points. At the 69th minute, Marañon returned the favor to Gallardo who scored to increase his teams advantage to two goals. Twelve minutes after, another substitute in the name of Jeffrey Christiaens played a one-two with fellow spark plug Cho Kyum Son to punctuate an emphatic turnaround.

Ceres coach Ali Go owed the result to his deep roster which presented the luxury of having quality players come off the bench. “For us it’s how deep your bench that will matter in close games,” Go stated. He also shared that he had to deliver a pep talk to awaken his players who had a hard time against GAU in the first half. “After the pep talk, everybody understood what we’re supposed to do and eventually got the goals. Frustrating first half but the second half was really rewarding. All in all, it’s a good win,” he furthered.

On the other side of the fence, GAU coach Rodolfo Alicante spoke with grief after he witnessed his team give away four goals in the second half. Previously, the Archers have yet to concede goals in the tournament. “In the first half, medyo maganda ‘yung aming performance. Nacontrol namin ‘yung game,” Alicante recalled. Asked what went wrong, Alicante cited the substitutions made in the second half which favored Ceres who eventually opened the floodgates. “Malaking factor ‘yung first goal ng Ceres. Their confidence slightly increased after that.”

Group A action ends with Ceres-La Salle bound to face the second placed team of Group B, which could either be Pachanga-Diliman or Kaya. Meanwhile, Green Archers United are set to clash with Group D winners Global in the UFL Cup quarter finals slated to be in July.

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