Iloilo ends Negros' perfect PFL run

Miguel Tanton and Robert Mendy celebrate after Kaya Iloilo scored a goal against Ceres Negros. Kaya FC Iloilo
By Dugout Philippines

BACOLOD--“The heartbreak is over,” said a delighted Noel Marcaida.

After six consecutive defeats in the Philippines Football League at the hands of the Busmen, Kaya FC–Iloilo finally took victory over Ceres Negros on Saturday night, 2-0, at the Pana-ad Stadium.

First half goals from Robert Lopez Mendy and Alfred Osei did the damage for the visitors, who held on for the win despite playing more than 30 minutes with 10 men.

“I said before the game it would take a collective team effort, and we got exactly that,” said Marcaida. “We took advantage of them in that first half. Everyone worked so hard, especially after we went down to ten men.”

It all started perfectly for the visitors.

Ten minutes into the contest, Miguel Tanton played a quick free kick to Jordan Mintah, who raced into the box and delivered a perfect ball for Lopez Mendy to tap in.

The goal woke up the hosts, though, and not long after, Ceres had a great chance to equalize.

Takumi Uesato was brought down in the box, resulting in a penalty. Bienvenido MaraƱon stepped up to take the spot kick, firing low to the left, but Ace Villanueva palmed it away to preserve Iloilo’s lead.

“When the penalty was called, I just stayed composed. I kept telling myself, ‘I can save this. It doesn’t matter who takes it, I can save this,’” said Man of the Match Villanueva.

“It’s my first clean sheet, and against a big team. I just tried to stay calm and composed throughout. It was really a collective team effort.”

Five minutes from the break, a piece of brilliance unlocked Negros’ defense for a second time. Tanton used his quick feet to bypass his defender, then dinked the ball into the cutting Osei, who made no mistake with only the keeper to beat.

In an attempt to rescue the game, Ceres brought on Stephan Schrock and Super Herrera at half-time, but it was Iloilo that threatened to score after the restart.

Both Mintah and Lopez Mendy connected from set pieces in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, but their respective headers narrowly missed the target.

Then, with 32 minutes in regulation, an off-ball clash between Camelo Tacusalme and Schrock led to both players getting booked. The yellow card was Tacusalme’s second of the match, however, leading to his dismissal from the game.

The incident not only meant Kaya would finish the match with a man down, but with a completely new center back pairing, as Masanari Omura was forced off earlier in the first half due to injury.

The sending off reinvigorated the home side and their support. Soon, the match turned physical, with cards flying out of the referees pocket with regularity.

Ceres Negros threw everything they had at Kaya FC–Iloilo for the next half-hour. But despite the numerical disadvantage, and the Pana-ad crowd’s attempts to lift their team, Kaya held firm against a relentless spell of pressure, to take a well deserved 2-0 victory.

“Kaya fought very hard. They gave 200 percent just to win this game. It’s what we expected,” said Ceres’ assistant coach, a visibly distraught Ian Treyes.

“As you noticed, we have our focus on our next game, so we rested some of our players for our upcoming match in the AFC Cup.”

Although, delighted to have finally ended the drought against the defending PFL champions, Noel Marcaida was quick to keep the result in perspective.

“As good as this feeling is, we won’t let this victory overwhelm us. We still play Ceres three more times this season, and we’ll play them in our home, Iloilo. They’ll want to get back at us. We’ll be ready,” he said.

The win was Kaya FC–Iloilo’s third straight in the PFL, improving the club to 13 points after seven outings, good enough for second in the standings.

Ceres, meanwhile, despite being handed their first loss of the season, remain top of the table with 15 points from six matches.

Follow the site on Twitter: @DugoutPH