KAYA FC-ILOILO meets up anew with PSM Makassar of Indonesia today in AFC Cup Group H action at the Panaad Park and Football Stadium in Bacolod City with an eye on group leadership.

Both sporting identical one-win and two-draw records with five points, good for joint first place in their grouping, Kaya and PSM look to get the better of the other in their scheduled 3 p.m. match to gain solo top spot and propel their push in the ongoing tournament.

The two clubs met last April 2 in Bogor where Kaya came from behind to force a 1-1 stalemate and get a point each. More importantly, the Iloilo club stayed in step at the top of Group H with the result.

In their first encounter, it was a tight match all the way to the 56th minute when PSM Makassar broke the goalless tie with Eero Markkanen’s penalty.

Kaya scrambled to get the point back and had several opportunities but just could not complete them.

In the three-minute injury time, Kaya continued to work to be able to salvage at least a draw. Its efforts were rewarded when Jovin Bedic’s free kick found Marwin Angeles all alone inside the box.

With only the keeper to beat, the midfielder chested the ball and calmly slotted it into the net to secure a dramatic draw.

Kaya’s no-letup predisposition did not go unnoticed by its coach, who praised his players’ “big heart” amid the adversity it faced.

“It was a really tough game. PSM were really dangerous whenever they received the ball in front of our defensive line. It wasn’t our best performance, but it was our big heart that allowed us to get that late goal. All in all we deserved to get that point. And with that away goal, it gives us a boost ahead of our game in Bacolod. I’m proud of my boys,” said Iloilo head coach Noel Marcaida after their win.

Adding, “It was a collective effort. My 11 players really worked hard, from the goalkeeper to the striker. My players really had that fighting mentality. We nullified their obvious physical advantage, especially in set pieces. This point gives us a lot of confidence heading into our home game.”

As per tournament format, the top teams in each of the groupings earn an automatic spot in the Zonal semifinals of the tournament. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo