MANILA, Philippines - Cere-La Salle FC slithered past tough opponent Loyola Meralco Sparks FC, 1-0, in a heated match in Group A of the United Football League (UFL) FA League Cup at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on Thursday, October 2.
The match between the top caliber squads kicked off on a high note with both sides eager to score the opening goal.
After several exchanges, Ceres FC’s Jayson Panhay dialed a long distance shot from outside the box in the 17th minute but failed to connect due to the heavy interference of the Sparks’ defense.
To answer the shot at goal from the other side, Azkals player and Meralco Spark Simon Greatwich connected with teammate Joaquin Cañas via a corner kick but the latter’s attempt went over the goal.
As the match brewed into a bitter tasting rivalry, Kim Jin Ho found the back of the net after a fierce bicycle kick that caught the Meralco Sparks’ defense by surprise to take the lead for his club.
Midway through the first half, an early change of players in the field was made by Ceres FC to strengthen their offensive blitz as Manny Ott came in for Arnie Pasinabo while Patrick Reichelt replaced Adrian Gallardo.
The physicality of the action-packed contest continued until the final minutes of the opening half as veteran Azkal Carli De Murga was given a red card after a physical altercation with Loyola’s Max Wright in the stoppage period.
With just 10 men fighting for their side, Ceres FC continued to play their offensive battle plan with Ott spearheading the assaults in the 49th and 54th minute but none of his shots got through.
On the other hand, Loyola FC’s top striker Phil Younghusband was subbed into the match in the 64th minute after being benched for the greater part of the game due to an injury.
The Sparks’ continued receiving reinforcements from the sideline as Freddy Gonzales and Graham Caygill went into play in hopes of strengthening the outbursts of their team.
As a response, Ceres FC’s Jason Sabio saw action during the dying minutes of the match to augment the weary legs of their back line.
A late game rally from the Loyola side was sparked to break the silence of their goal scorers but none of their stabs penetrated the defense of their foes as the heroic saves of Ceres’ keeper Louie Casas barred them from equalizing.
Ceres held on to their solitary goal advantage until the end of the match to give Loyola their first defeat in the competition.
Meanwhile, Manila Jeepney FC escaped the late game surge of Phillippine Army FC, 5-4, to tally a win before to the first competition of this year’s UFL season.
The UFL FA League cup will be on break from October 4 to 14 to give way for the FIFA international friendlies of the national squad.
As part of their training for the upcoming Suzuki Cup in November, the Azkals are scheduled to play a match against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur on October 11 then another one against Nepal to be held in Qatar later this month on October 31. -