By Kevin Estrada
MANILA--It was a bittersweet Saturday for Meralco Manila and its supporters, as they remain on top of the PFL table in the weirdest of circumstances.
The Sparks lost for the very first time this season after they experienced their worst beating in league play inflicted by a rampaging Ceres Negros side in which the visiting Busmen disconnected them for seven without any reply earlier in the afternoon at the Rizal Memorial.
Risto Vidakovic's men never gave the hosts even an inch of their game, punishing them with their overloaded attack for their sixth win of the season, taking down their largest victim in yet another-seven goal beatdown for the second game running.
A quick brace by Fernando Rodriguez (17', 21') and a 36th minute strike by Iain Ramsay put Negros home and hosed early in the first half when they led, 3-0.
Ceres kicked into higher gear at the restart to tear the Sparks apart, as Ramsay completed his hat trick in the 49th and the 74th minute, with Stephan Schrock's goal in the 50th minute sandwiched in between.
Manila could not find their bearings and they put more salt into their wounds as Alvin Sarmiento put the ball in his own net deep into added time.
However, the dejection made by this beating was somehow diffused when Davao Aguilas gave them a huge favor, nicking a point away at Global Cebu later in the evening to retain their place at the top of the pile with a goalless draw in Abellana.
Knowing that only a 1-0 win was enough for them to overtake the capital side on goal difference, Akbar Nawas' men went on the attack but was met by a meticulous back line set up by Gary Phillips, who had to play without the suspended Jason Cordova.
However, the Australian gaffer will have to thank Marko Trkulja for the result with a string of stops by the Serbian keeping the reigning national champs at bay to spoil their plot to wrest the lead away from Manila.
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