Stallion Laguna FC beat Loyola Meralco Sparks FC-Taguig, 2-0, in extra time to win the first Stallion Invitational Cup title at the Biñan Football Stadium on Friday.
The host club had to survive the challenge of fellow Philippine Football League member despite the absence of key players Ruben Doctora, Nathan Alquiros and Fitch Arboleda.
Doctora and Alquiros missed the match due to injuries while Arboleda is currently on duty with the senior men’s national team.
Substitute Ryo Tamiya and wingback Nana Thomert lifted the host squad to its first-ever championship at their new home stadium in Laguna.
Tamiya, after coming off the bench late in the match, quickly made his presence felt with a shot off a rebound of Matthew Nierras’ initial strike to take the lead in the 105th minute of extra time.
With just a few minutes left in the match, defender Thomert pierced Loyola’s defense with a goal of his own from an impressive run from the wing in the 120th minute.
“We were dominated by Loyola in the first half but we were able to make adjustments in the second half and get back into the game,” Stallion head coach Ernest Nierras said after the match.
Loyola battered the defense of the Stallions with a dominant display of attacking skills and Maxime Ziepop’s attempt in the 31st minute nearly hit the target.
However, Stallion FC goalkeeper Roland Sadia stood firm in between the sticks to foil the attempts of their foes, which had a 68-32 advantage in possession percentage.
The assertive stance of Loyola in its attacks continued in the second half but the Stallion’s back line stood firm until the end of regulation.
“Our substitutes also stepped in when they were called in,” added Nierras. “We were able to play what we wanted, which is to run and pass, run and pass. This victory is a good way for us to start the year.”