By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THERE are no more unbeaten teams in the 2018 Philippines Football League season after Kaya-Iloilo FC sent erstwhile unbeaten team Ceres-Negros FC crashing, 2-0, in their clash Saturday night at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium.
First-half goals from Robert Lopez Mendy and Alfred Osei did it for the visiting side, which did a good job holding its own despite playing more than 30 minutes with 10 men.
The win was a breakthrough as well for Kaya, which was lorded over by the defending champions in last year’s PFL.
“I said before the game it would take a collective team effort, and we got exactly that,” said Kaya coach Noel Marcaida following their victory.
“We took advantage of them in that first half. Everyone worked so hard, especially after we went down to 10 men,” added the coach.
Mr. Lopez Mendy got the scoring going for Kaya after tapping in a pass from teammate Jordan Mintah in the 10th minute.
The goal jolted the hosts, who got down to work to try to get back the goal.
Kaya keeper Ace Villanueva and the rest of the team would prove themselves up to the initial onslaught of Ceres and frustrate the latter.
The Iloilo side would double the lead in the 40th minute when Mr. Osei punctured through off a nifty pass from Miguel Tanton.
Sensing that the game was slipping from its hands, Ceres brought on Stephan Schrock and Super Herrera at halftime, but it was Iloilo that threatened to score after the restart.
Both Messrs. 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 Mr. 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 turn of events reinvigorated the home side and its supporters.
The match turned physical, with cards flying out of the referees pocket with regularity.
Ceres threw everything it had at Kaya the rest of the way but the visitors just would not budge en route to the win.
“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,” he added.
“Kaya fought very hard. They gave 200% just to win this game. It’s what we expected,” said Ceres’ assistant coach 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,” he added, referring to their key knockout AFC Cup match against Yangon United FC in Myanmar on May 16.
The win was Kaya’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, remains on top of the table with 15 points from six matches.