In a battle of two in-form teams, it was Green Archers United (GAU) FC who pulled off a late winner over Manila Jeepney FC, 3-2, to roll on to their third consecutive victory at the 2015 United Football League (UFL), Saturday, June 27 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
The first half was evenly contested as both teams tried to weave past the opposing defense. A few minutes into the opening frame, however, the Green Archers started to assert their might and were able to dominate the possession. The white-shirts was in the back heel as they were content with clearing the balls that breach their backline. At the 19th minute two consecutive shots by Jhan-jhan Melliza and Robert Lopez Mendy almost opened the scoring for the green-shirts, had these shots gone into the back of the net. In the following goal kick by Jeepney goalkeeper RJ Joyel, the away squad was able to get the loose ball. Seeing the white side’s defense in disarray, Manuel Chaffort fired a shot from the center circle and took the go-ahead for his team at the 27th minute.
Five minutes later, Green Archers custodian Paolo Pascual blocked an attempt by Arthur Kouassi for an equalizer. It was the visitors that doubled their lead in the ensuing action. GAU’s leading scorer Lopez-Mendy drove into the box and flicked the ball past Joyel for the goal. The leading side continued to pounce on the defense as two more attempts by Kennedy Uzoka and Ronnie Aguisanda had to be dealt with by Joyel, four minutes before the end of the half. Manila Jeepney finally found a chance at the 44th minute, only Park Su Hyun shot the ball wide and out.
That last gasp at the end of the first half proved to be a start of the shift in the balance in the second half. Capitalizing on the personnel adjustments of the Green Archers, Manila Jeepney was finally able to win the 50-50 balls and build up their attack. The white-side’s first solid chance of the period happened at the 61st minute. Arnel Amita found himself within shooting range, but his shot was blocked by Gelo Diamante. Two minutes after, Kouassi was at the right place at the right time and headed the ball into the goal out of Pascual’s reach to take one back for Jeepney, 1-2. With momentum on their side, Kouassi’s team continued with their attacking and midfield control. The burly forward, and Eric Giganto set up chances for a tying goal, but their efforts were stifled by the defense. The more aggressive side was rewarded with the equalizer at the 74th minute. Green Archers keeper Pascual anchored his squad’s defense against the barrage of shots, only to crumble from an attempt by Amita, who broke the wall for his team’s second and level the match.
With time left, both teams tried to push for the winning goal. With a winning streak on the line, GAU striker Melliza found himself free on the flanks and took Joyel one-on-one. The young keeper committed to his former college teammate, and Melliza sent the ball to Lopez Mendy, who blasted it to the onion bag at the 78th minute, to reclaim the lead for his team, 3-2. Two minutes after that shot, goalscorer Lopez Mendy was sent off after an altercation with Joshua Mullero and Rodrigue Nembot. Melliza tried to put the game out of reach in the following play, but he was not able connect. Manila Jeepney had one last attempt as the fulltime whistle was about to be sounded. Giganto dislodged the defense and fired from way out only for him to be adjudged offside and his goal nullified. Green Archers pulled off a rousing win, their third in seven days.
In an interview, GAU coach Rodolfo Alicante expressed his happiness that his team was able to survive this hectic schedule. According to the veteran mentor, the key was to maximize their players. “You have to use your players,” he said. Alicante also shared that he felt they dominated the first half as evidenced by his teams’ early lead. Manila Jeepney was able to adjust and found creases in their defense to level the match in the following period. When asked about what he told his players after the equalizer, the tactician shared, “I told the midfield to defend first and organize; kasi sometimes ganun talaga, pag yung kalaban nakascore, yung morale ng team bumababa. So, I told them to organize, so yun nabalik yung team.” Alicante, however, has concerns on the suspension of Lopez Mendy for their match against league leaders Ceres FC. Raising this concern, he said that they need to work on their defense to counter the offensive prowess of the top-seeded squad whom they will face on July 15. On the other side, Manila Jeepney will try to bounce back from this loss, when they challenge Global FC on July 18.
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