It was tight, it was full of drama and towards the end of matchday four of the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara, things are now getting into shape as the knockout stages are approaching.
Matchday four gave us a triple header which featured group A participants, Philippines U-22 and Ceres-Negros FC squaring off at the Biñan Football Stadium while the other pair from the same group Mendiola FC 1991 and Green Archers United FC battled it out at the Aboitiz Pitch at the Outlets in Lipa.
It also saw the battle between Stallion Laguna FC and Philippine Air Force FC in their scuffle for position in Group B. Without further ado, let’s look at what transpired in matchday four.
In what seemed to be the sternest test for the Young Azkals, the Philippines U-22 met with the three-time Philippines Football League champions Ceres-Negros FC to determine as early as now, who will progress to the semis.
It was a dream start for our Southeast Asian Games representatives as Yrick Gallantes scored the first goal of the match after a very pacey counter-attack from the Under-22s. The play started with Gallantes who dropped back and intercepted the ball in defence.
It sparked a speedy counter which was then finished by the Hibernian standout after Chima Uzoka flicked it through. The first effort from Gallantes was blocked by Ronilo Bayan but he couldn’t do anything with the second.
Heading into the second half, it already seemed that the Young Azkals are on their way to promise land but the league champions had other ideas.
The 61st minute of the match saw Dylan De Bruycker, a mainstay of the U-22 squad who’s also playing for the busmen scored the equalizer. Mike Ott delivered an exquisite through-ball for De Bruycker who then rifled it past Anthony Pinthus.
A draw seemed to be an acceptable result for the Young Azkals but come the 86th minute of the match, Robert Lopez-Mendy salvaged the Busmen and pushed them towards the finish line.
Mendy received a lovely pass from the right side which he then headed into the back of the net to collect all three points at the Biñan Football Stadium for the busmen.
With that victory, it plummeted them into the top of the pecking order with four points and a better goalscoring record than Mendiola FC 1991 which we’ll now look into.
“For us, the cup is not important we just want to put the players who doesn’t play a lot. We’re ok if we go through or if we go out. We have a long season behind and I just wanted them to enjoy and just to participate,” said Risto Vidakovic regarding their victory against the young Azkals.
They will head be facing Green Archers United in their final group stage match which could still prove to be pivotal as a defeat could send them packing if Mendiola FC 1991 and Philippines U-22 play out for a draw. A win could send them through the knockouts while a draw could halt their march towards a cup double this season.
Vying for a place in the semifinals and proving to everyone that they are not a pushover team, Mendiola FC 1991 has summoned all of their wills into this match as they continue to impress us despite a few inconsistencies in defence as well as in attack.
A strong believer of starting strong over the opposition, Los Hijos Vallentes de Mendiola went for the attack right from the first minute and continued to pressure on the defensive line set up by the Green Archers throughout the entire 90 minutes.
There was a lot going on for Mendiola FC as they kept on passing the ball around to find the openings. On the 19th minute, a lovely sequence of play between Ricky Sendra, Hamed Hajimahdi and Jim Ashley Flores got them in the lead.
Sendra broke through the middle of the defence before giving it to Hajimahdi on the right side. The Iranian then passed it to the middle for Flores who then tapped the ball past Henry Fong.
Almost everything was clicking for the men in red and white but not their finishing as they could’ve won the match by at least two or three more goals. If they are not prevented by the offside flag, their shots are going straight to Fong.
On the other hand, the Green Archers didn’t want to back down and kept on attacking but they are also lacking in their attack. The Aboitiz Pitch saw some late drama into the final 13 minutes of the match.
Roberto Corsame Jr. was being crowded by Rederick Fornis and Reymart Cubon which led to Fornis momentarily winning the ball. The gutsy striker from Tondo didn’t stop and tackled Fornis to win the ball back.
As both Corsame and Cubon chased for the ball, Corsame nudged Cubon with a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge which referee Michael Barajas deemed clean but Cubon, who was forced out went back with a two-footed challenge from behind to win the ball from Corsame before giving him what seemed to be a slap to the body due to his frustration.
That action saw Cubon receive his marching orders from Barajas before he gets crowded by almost the entire Mendiola bench. At the end of the match, it Mendiola FC 1991 who went away with three points to keep their Copa Paulino Alcantara hunt alive while sending Green Archers United packing in the process.
“I would like to congratulate the boys for the big three points that we got today. If we talk about the game, we didn’t capitalise on our chances. We gave the Green Arhers the chances which we could’ve prevented,” said stand-in coach Niboy Pedimonte in their victory against the Green Archers United who looked to be asking for more from his team despite the three points.
“Honestly, I was disappointed about the performance of my boys right now and hopefully, we improve for the next game,” Pedimonte added. They will now have a daunting task ahead of them as they will be facing the Philippines U-22 in their final group stage match to possibly secure their passage to the knockouts.
Matchday four saw another comeback win this time in group A with Stallion Laguna FC winning all three points away from home against a relentless Philippine Air Force FC side.
The home side went on to take the lead on the 35th minute thanks to Alex Elnar who lobbed the ball over Nelson Gasic which brought pandemonium to the side who’s been looking for some good news for quite some time now.
However, their glory was short-lived as Fitch Arboleda converted from the penalty spot on the 38th minute after Abou Sy was taken down inside the box.
Since the start of the second half, it all went spiralling down for the Airmen. The only thing they can take as a positive was the effort on the 67th minute but Gasic had other plans and denied them the go-ahead goal.
Towards the end of the match, Stallion Laguna FC got some help from lady luck as Ruben Doctora was taken down inside the box on the 85th minute and Nathan Alquiros completed the comeback for the away side to take home three points.
Not the win they wanted but at least they were able to start their campaign with a win and nonetheless securing the second spot to progress to the semifinals of the Copa Paulino Alcantara.
“Right now, the important thing is to make the most out of this win and just move forward,” said Ernest Nierras who seemed to be frustrated despite their win over Philippine Air Force.
They will now think about what they need to do to finish at the top of Group B and possibly get a better pairing come the knockout stages.
“We shouldn’t make those mistakes—not at this level. It’s something we have to talk about internally. Especially against Kaya, we can’t allow these things to happen, and we have to prepare better,” said Nierras regarding their plans towards their Wednesday encounter against the Copa Paulino Alcantara title holders.
So there you have it. It was an exciting matchday three which saw a tilt in the balance in group A while in group B, Kaya FC Iloilo can continue their defence of the Copa Paulino Alcantara.
It will be another exciting encounter come matchday for as we take a look into the schedule of the matches:
Ceres-Negros FC vs Green Archers United- Aboitiz Pitch @ 7 PM.
Philippines U-22 vs Mendiola FC 1991- Biñan Football stadium @ 7 PM
Stallion Laguna FC vs Kaya FC Iloilo– Biñan Football Stadium @ 4 PM