KAGULO SA GROUP F | Resolving wild AFC Cup playoff chase in Kaya's group

Both Kaya and Kitchee have a good chance of making the AFC Cup playoffs. (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

THE results of Matchday 5 in Group F of the AFC Cup led us to a wild Matchday 6 which is as intriguing as the vice presidential vote race between Bongbong Marcos and Leni Robredo (you should be aware that I finished this Quotient Watch post just as I was also monitoring the wilder VP chase). Kaya missed out on its first chance to make the Sweet 16 after dropping a 0-1 home loss to Kitchee, while Balestier stayed alive after beating New Radiant at home, 3-0.

Because of those, here's the playoff picture now: Kitchee-10 points, Kaya-9 points, Balestier-7 points. Also take note that the AFC Cup uses a tiebreaker format similar to that of Liga BBVA wherein the head-to-head clashes will be first considered before the overall count. Here's the head-to-head points between the three: Kaya 6 points, Kitchee 6 points, Balestier 3 points. On the other hand, here's the current head-to-head goal difference between the three: Kaya +2 (4 GF, 2 GA), Kitchee +1 (2 GF, 1 GA), Balestier -3 (1 GF, 4 GA).

Kitchee and Balestier will clash for probably the last playoff spot in Hong Kong, while Kaya travels to Male to take on Radiant, which was already booted out following the loss at Balestier. However, both Kitchee and Balestier can both make the playoffs despite them battling it off in Matchday 6. And that's where we will kick things off.

1. If Kaya loses and Balestier wins, both Balestier and Kitchee will enter the knockout stages. Also, this will mean Balestier will take the top seed as they would sweep their season series against Kitchee.

Now, anything other than a loss will put Kaya into the next round. However, a win will mean much for the UFL squad as they could finish the group stage at number one. Here's Scenario 2.

2. If Kaya wins and Kitchee does not win, Kaya will finish first in Group F. Kitchee's chance of joining Kaya, however, will depend on how they will fare against Balestier.
 2a. If Kitchee draws with Balestier, Kitchee enters the playoffs.
 2b. If Balestier wins, Balestier enters the playoffs.

Now, there are two ways for Kitchee to finish first in Group F. One is by beating Balestier. In the process, however, that will also catapult Kaya to the playoffs regardless of their result against Radiant as they swept their season series against Balestier. In fact, that's Scenario 3.

3. If Kitchee wins, both Kitchee and Kaya will enter the playoffs with Kitchee as the top seed.

Kitchee can still clinch the top seed with a draw as long as Kaya fails to beat Radiant on the road. That's Scenario 4.

4. If Kitchee draws with Balestier and Kaya is held by Radiant (i.e., draws or loses), the consequence of Scneario 3 holds.

Scenario 5 is the wildest case since this is the one where a three-way tie with ten points could take place. This will happen if and only if Kaya draws with Radiant and Balestier beats Kitchee (they will be played simultaneously). Now, since all the three teams will have six H2H points each--the result of the first tiebreaker rule, the H2H GD rule will take effect. Since Kaya has the better H2H GD than Kitchee and Balestier entering Matchday 6, Kaya will enter the playoffs (take note that all Kaya needs is at least a draw to enter the next round regardless of the Kitchee-Balestier result). But winning isn't everything for Balestier. Here's why.

5. If Kaya draws and Balestier wins, Kaya enters the playoffs.
 5a. If Balestier wins by only one, Kaya finishes first and Kitchee finishes second.
 5b. If Balestier wins by 2-5, Kaya finishes first and Kitchee finishes second (for the case where Balestier wins by two, the H2H tiebreaker process will be repeated only for Balestier and Kitchee; for the the case where Balestier wins by five, the said process will be re-applied only to Kaya and Balestier).
 5c. If Balestier wins by six or more, Balestier finishes first and Kaya finishes second.

Simply put, Kaya and Kitchee can dictate their fate, but for Balestier, their playoff hopes are, in a way, not on their hands.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno