They had their backs against the wall but their bouncebackability proved to be the difference in the first edition of the Battle of the Champions in the 2019 Philippines Football League.
Right from the kick-off, both clubs have shown their intent to win this match as it means a lot for either of them.
For Ceres-Negros FC, this is a match they want to dedicate to their club chairman Leo Rey Yanson whose facing such difficult times after a rift amongst their family broke out. On the other hand, a win could prove to be pivotal for Kaya FC-Iloilo who looked to extend their lead at the top of the standings.
Both teams had a fair amount of possession in the first half but nothing worth threatening went towards either side’s goalkeepers. However, on the 42nd minute, Arnel Amita saw red after a scuffle with OJ Porteria.
From then on, the visiting side needed to hang on for dear life as they went down to 10 men against very tough opposition. As the busmen went on for the offensive, they were given a shocker by Kaya FC-Iloilo’s team captain Jovin Bedic.
The Barotac Nuevo native saw Roland Müller was out of his line before he unleashed a beast of a shot from outside the box using his left foot to put the Copa Paulino Alcantara champions the lead.
The busmen did not back down against Kaya who, despite going down to 10 men in the first half, showed them that their rotational prowess can still work wonders for them.
On the 68th minute of the match, Stephan Schröck broke past Shirmar Felongco on the left wing before squaring the ball to Bienvenido Marañon who just tapped the ball past Louie Casas.
Four minutes later, the defending league champions have turned the tables around after a similar play broke out on the left with Schröcky made another incisive run then passed the ball to Marañon who scored in a similar fashion with his first goal.
The visitors saw a chance to equalize on the 85th minute through Jordan Mintah but the club’s current top scorer saw his header hit the upright.
Their final push was not enough which meant the defending champions are still undefeated and have now made their way back to the top of the pecking order.
“He’s (Leo Rey Yanson) more like a friend or a father to us all and we dedicate the win for him,” said Ceres-Negros FC’s team captain Schröck.
“He’s having a hard time and I hope he has like 15 seconds of smiling knowing that, even though people think we might be struggling with being the best in the country. I hope it makes him proud and makes him happy,” he added.
With a game at hand, the defending champions will face Philippine Air Force FC on Saturday while Kaya FC-Iloilo will look to get back to winning ways against Stallion Laguna FC to end their tough three-game stretch.
Photo Credits to: Philippines Football League