Stallion switch off Loyola's AFC Cup hopes with a stalemate
By Kevin Estrada
MANILA-- Even though they are way behind of champions Global, Stallion showed why they are still one of the UFL's elite clubs, forcing a more favored Loyola side to a four-goal stalemate to cap off the penultimate matchday of the league Saturday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium Ernest Nierras' men played like a true workhorse and were duly rewarded by their all-out play, with goals by Fitch Arboleda and skipper Ruben Doctora, coupled by superb goalkeeping by Ref Cuaresma, power the 2013 double winners into a spoiler's role with a shocking 2-2 draw over their more fancied opponents to end the season on 31 points. Simon Mcmenemy's final match for the Sparks ended in whimper when they were forced to peg back on level terms twice, but they could not find a winner as the mad rush to second and the spot to next season's AFC Cup practically ended here tonight, with Loyola finished their domestic season on 41 points, tied with Ceres but had an inferior goal difference over the Busmen who will even play fourth-placed JP Voltes tomorrow afternoon. Stallion proved a tough nut to crack early on, with Arboleda scored the match's first just seconds after the opening whistle, beating Loyola netminder Ace Villanueva to the bottom left corner of the net.
Since then, both sides played at equal pace with each other, with possessions equally split between them that negated their gap in the league table.
Loyola then equalized deep into added time, when David Basa inadvertedly handled Simon Greatwich's shot into his own net that left Nierras bemused at the break.
But Doctora made amends for the animated manager in the 53rd minute, giving the lead back for the Stallions by beating Anto Gonzales on the counter and slots the ball low for 2-1 but that was cancelled out by Greatwich twelve minutes later with a cracking shot from outside.
However, it was the former Loyola number one who made the day for Stallion, capping off with a double save off Daniel Gadia and Joaco with just three minutes left in the clock.