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Negros complicates top seed race with 6-0 rout of Manila

FC Meralco Manila
By Dugout Philippines

BACOLOD--Ceres Negros gave Manila a second heavy loss of the season when they outplayed the Sparks 6-0 on Sunday night in Panaad Stadium.

Ceres goal machine Fernando Rodriguez scored a hat trick while Bienve Marañon added two to give the Philippines Football League leaders something to consider as the regular season nears its end.

The defeat had echoes of last July when the Negrenses downed Meralco 7-0 in Rizal Memorial.

Milan Nikolic could have opened the scoring for the visitors but his header midway through the first half but his header off a Tyler Matas throw in skipped off the top of the bar.

A minute later Ceres opened their account when Bienve Marañon scored off a deflection off Neil Dorimon.

Ceres doubled their lead in the 28th when Carlie de Murga stroked in off a goalmouth scramble after an OJ Porteria shot was blocked.

Just three minutes later the Busmen went three ahead when Fernando Rodriguez exploited some confusion in the Meralco defense to poke in from close range.

Six minutes later Rodriguez got his second off the left flank for 4-0.

Nikolic and Connor Tacagni were both booked before the half.

Manila had two great shots at cutting into the deficit early in the second half but Nikolic headed wide and Minniecon just shot high from inside the box.

In the 54th Rodriguez completed his hat trick from the left side for 5-0.

Four minutes later Tacagni almost pulled a goal back but his header off a Minniecon cross clanged off the bottom of the crossbar and fell down outside the goal line.

In the 68th minute, Marañon artfully chipped over Meralco goalie Ace Villanueva from a narrow angle to complete the scoring.

"A few of our players were sick and it affected us," admitted Manila coach Aris Caslib afterwards.

"We were in the game in the first 20 minutes. If Curt Dizon or Nikolic scores then it could be different."

Caslib also aired his thoughts on match scheduling down the home stretch of the regular season.

"The last few games of the teams in the semis are crucial. The league has to schedule them in such a way that the matches are not compromised, especially for the ranking of teams."

"They pressed high and there was a lot of space in the back," explained Negros coach Risto Vidakovic.

"We scored four goals in the first half and it was practically finished already."

Manila is still atop the league standings but Ceres, more than ever, looks like a major threat.

The Sparks next play Global Cebu in Rizal Memorial on Nov. 19 before hosting the Busmen a week after in their last regular season match.

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