Marikina gets late morbid Halloween moment as own goal sends Manila to Top 2

FC Meralco Manila
By Dugout Philippines

MANILA--On Halloween there was a trick for JPV and a treat for FC Meralco Manila.

The Sparks prevailed over the Mariqueños 1-0 in Rizal Memorial on Tuesday.

JPV sub Mahmoud Ali turned the ball into his own net in the second half for the only score of the game.

It was deja vu for the visitors, who also scored an own goal in this fixture at Rizal Memorial a few months ago when they lost 2-1.

The three points vaults Manila to 54 points in the Philippines Football League table, which exceeds the maximum possible points total of both Kaya and Global. That means Meralco can do no worse than second seed in the upcoming PFL playoffs which begin on Dec. 2.

Marikina native Ace Villanueva got the start in goal for Manila over Jun Badelic, whose sore shoulder kept him out of this match.

In the only other change for Sparks coach Aris Caslib, Neil Dorimon picked up a start at left centerback in place of the suspended Milan Nikolic.

JPV's J Baguioro had the best early chance but his 14th minute effort fluttered high.

Four minutes later Simon Greatwich came close to opening but his shot from a tight angle on the left went straight to JPV netminder Nelson Gasic.

Minutes later Manila CB Lee Jeong Min was shown a yellow card for a rough foul on Takumi Uesato. That caution means the Korean will miss Sunday's big clash against Ceres in Bacolod.

Midway through the half Joaco Cañas almost gave Meralco the lead but his header off a Minniecon corner clanged off the right post.

Manila asserted themselves but Greatwich could only shoot over, Daniel Gadia sent a shot right at the keeper, and four minutes from halftime a Minniecon chip sailed over the frame.

Just before the half ended Connor Tacagni floated an attempt high from the edge of the penalty area. Another Tacagni attempt on the other side of halftime was also stuffed by Gasic.

JPV nearly went ahead on a rare counterattack in the 54th but Takashi Odawara pulled his shot left.

It was Manila who got the breakthrough a minute later when a Minniecon cross bounced off substitute Ali's leg and into the net for 1-0.

JPV surged forward and did test Villanueva once but Meralco also had their chances, with Greatwich and Minniecon firing wide.

A Koichi Belgira free kick was well punched clear by Villanueva in the 77th.

Tacagni could have made it 2-0 when he received a good offload by substitute Jinggoy Valmayor but his shot was well-smothered by Gasic.

The three points entrenches Manila atop the table by seven clear points. JPV are on the verge of going out of the running for the postseason.

"I think we played well tactically in the first half. In the second we let them into the game," said Man of the Match Minniecon.

"Going into the playoffs we have stuff we need to eliminate if we are to go further," added the Aussie, who admitted that the MOTM could have gone to serveral other teammates.

"We are creating chances but our problem is being confident in front of goal and putting the chances away," continued Minniecon.

"Our lack of scoring will not be a problem," said Caslib, whose side has kept on getting.results despite struggling to find the back of the net.

"On transitions and set plays we can deliver. We are trying to involve more players in attack. At the end of the day one goal is good enough to win a match."

"Our finishing was not there," rued Marikina coach Dan Padernal, who also blamed his team's performance on a packed schedule.

"Four games in two weeks is a bit tiring. But thank you to my players for their effort even though we can't finish in the Top 4."

Manila next plays Ceres Negros on Sunday night, Nov. 5, in Panaad stadium in Bacolod.

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