The opening salvo of the 2019 Philippine Premier League pitted top-flight returnees Philippine Air Force FC and Mendiola FC 1991 which saw a very tight encounter.
Amidst the controversies surrounding the league, the Philippine Premier League pushed through with their opening fixture and it didn’t disappoint. PAF and Mendiola already went head-to-head early in the first half as both team wanted to be the first one to put a goal in the tally.
It was Nimrod Balabat who opened the festivities on the seventh minute as he blasted a shot from outside the box. Mark Anthony Mendome could not get to it as it screeched into the top corner of the goal.
They continued to be on the offensive as they tried to double the lead on the 18th minute as Jim Ashley Flores took a shot inside the box but just went wide off the right post. Flores tried again, two minutes after his first attempt, this time just from outside the box but the keeper got to it.
After the cooling break, it was PAF’s time to attack as they unleashed a barrage of attempts. On the 34th minute, team captain Yanti Barsales almost equalized but his shot just went whiskers away from the left post. He took a crack at it again on the 37th minute but it was the same outcome and he’s also called for an offside.
Finally, on the 39th minute, Air Force got the equalizer as a scramble inside the box saw Rodolf Bebangco tapped the ball into the back of the net to level the playing field. It seemed that life was breathed back into their squad as they kept looking for the go-ahead goal but they just lack the final ball.
Into the second half, the silence was broken on the 59th minute as Roberto Corsame broke loose from the defense before slotting the ball past the keeper.
The chance of PAF getting back into the game became slim as Mendiola started to tighten up on defense. However, on the 71st minute of the match, Barsales broke through after receiving a lovely lob before he seemed to be taken down inside the penalty box. Referee Christian Pacana waived off their penalty appeal which disgruntled the PAF captain.
They got another equalizer on the 79th minute when the captain, Barsales, broke through and made the keeper go the wrong way before slotting it into the back of the net. A proof that he still has a lot in his tank despite the tender age of 45.
Into the stoppage time, Air Force almost got the winner only to find their efforts went past the right post. At fulltime, it was a draw and a fitting one as both teams exerted all their efforts to deliver an opening match everyone deserves despite the issues and dark clouds surrounding the league.