They might’ve started slow but nevertheless, they continue their quest to defend their trophy. Kaya FC-Iloilo brushed past Mendiola FC 1991 in their 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara Semifinals encounter at the Aboitiz Pitch in The Outlets in Lipa, Batangas.
We thought it will be Kaya FC all the way in the semifinals but they had to wait until the second half of to get their gears running and push them into the final to defend their title. Without further ado, here are the five takeaways from the match by your Tito Jay.
1) Rattled but not losing focus
In the first half of their contest, the defending champions had a hard time keeping control of the ball or going for the attack as the underdogs, Mendiola FC, showed their grit.
They pressed on the opposition like it’s the last day of their lives and that everything relied on their victory against Kaya. However, the composure of the champions was so evident as despite receiving a lot of pressure from the likes of Hamed Hajimahdi, Ricky Sendra and Ashley Flores, they were able to fend off their attacks.
It only took them six minutes in the second half to score the opener and they did not look back. Jayson Panhay received a cross from Jordan Mintah before squaring the ball for Kenshiro Daniels to finish into the back of the net.
After Daniels scored the opener, Kaya FC did not hold back. They started pushing for the goal that possibly sealed their passage to the final. Through their push, even Masanari Omura, a natural defender, scored the second goal of the match.
On the 72nd minute, Omura went up for the corner. He went on to fire for the spillage of the Mendiola defence. His initial shot hit the right post but he got the lucky bounce and just punched it towards the goal.
The final nail in the coffin was buried by Daryl Roberts on the 81st minute. Roberts came in as a replacement for Mr. X-Factor Jayson Panhay on the 66th minute and the switch paid off well for head coach Noel Marcaida.
Alfred Osei played a quick free-kick to Daniels who then gave it back to Roberts who then fired it past Dini Ouattara to complete their second-half blitz.
2) Jayson “The X-Factor” Panhay at it again
Definitely a man to watch in their upcoming duel against the three-time Philippines Football League champions Ceres-Negros FC, Jayson Panhay has proven he’s the real x-factor for Kaya FC-Iloilo in their campaign to defend the title.
Despite not scoring in this match against Mendiola FC 1991, he posed some great threat up front whenever he’s running down the wings or receiving the ball in the middle.
He was involved in their opening goal on the 51st minute of the match as he provided the assist for another in-form player Daniels. He’s had quite a great performance until he was subbed off for Roberts.
“Before the start of this year, Panhay told me he wanted to play,” said by Marcaida. He added, “He grasped the opportunity and he’s really performing.”
Marcaida was all praises to Panhay who’s been pleading to play a match in this season and he did not disappoint the gaffer as he’s been performing really well since the middle of the season.
“He’s an x-factor with the team because with his performance, his ability when it comes to delivery, it really helps us,” said by Marcaida regarding the role that Panhay took on.
Heading into their championship match against his former club, Panhay will have to more than the x-factor for his side if he wants to take on the role of cup double spoiler.
The question now is, will he be scoring a goal against his former employers and if he’ll score a goal, will he celebrate considering this might be his biggest match?
3) Ashley Flores was contained well
Known as the “Paul Desiderio” of Mendiola FC 1991 due to his never-say-die attitude as well as the way he said “Maniwala lang kayo, atin na ‘to” in their match against the Philippines U-22, Ashley Flores was the man to mark in the semis as he’ll be expecting some deliveries from Ricky Sendra and Hamed Hajimahdi.
However, Kaya Futbol Club’s defenders deferred any attempt from Flores to get his team into the lead or even help his crawl back into the game after conceding the opening goal.
It’s as if they already knew that Flores will be working hard as he’s been the talisman for Mendiola for this match and they’ve assigned Masanari Omura to close him out.
Things worked out pretty well for Marcaida’s side as not only they were able to prevent everyone in red and white from making such impact into this match but also closing out the chances for Flores to spark a comeback.
4) Hamed Hajimahdi: Heart of a captain without an armband
After the battlefield has cleared out, there was only one man left on the pitch. He was sitting, talking with a friend and emotions just flowing out of him.
Hamed Hajimahdi was in tears after their three-nil defeat against Kaya FC-Iloilo which truly showed how much this semifinal match meant to him.
“It’s very hard for me because we knew how they play. I lost a lot of games but this, for me, is super heavy,” said Hajimahdi.
He also said, “We had nothing but for me, I’m proud of my teammates because I told them, If we reach the semis, it’s like the championship for us.”
We saw him carry his team on his shoulders in this tournament. It was evident when he sparked the comeback against Ceres-Negros FC as well as against the Philippines U-22.
His frustrations couldn’t be more on point but nevertheless, it was a great comeback to the season for a team with little resources but had the biggest heart to battle against the top clubs in the country.
Only time can tell how far Hajimahdi and Mendiola FC 1991 can reach in the Philippines top-flight football action. They just need to continue their gritty attitude and their never-say-die mentality.
5) Setting up a battle of epic proportion
Now that the AFC Cup slots have been sealed for the defending champions, they now have a date with destiny to deny the current best club in the Philippines a chance for a cup double.
Kaya FC-Iloilo will face Ceres-Negros FC in the final of the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara at the Biñan Football Stadium on November 16, 2019 at 5PM.
It couldn’t get any bigger than this. Not only does Kaya wants to successfully defend their trophy, but they’d also like to break the losing streak against their rivals.
Over the last four matches in the league, Ceres-Negros FC imposed their dominance against the second-best club in the country with their most recent victory against Kaya being recorded at three-nil.
Coming in with a depleted line-up because of their mainstays having to fly out with the National team, Ceres-Negros FC will be the proverbial underdogs in this match against a stacked Kaya FC-Iloilo side.
Both teams would like to get a hold of the trophy as Ceres is chasing for their cup double this season to cap off their invincible run in the league while Kaya would like to defend the cup and affirm to everyone that they deserved that slot for the AFC Cup.
Nothing much can be said about the match-up between the two that’s why all we can do is to appreciate how these two clubs have set the bar for Philippine club football.
They’ve brought the local football scene to a different light not only here in the country but also showcasing their talents at the regional level. We hope the other clubs can follow suit so that we can have a much more competitive league next year.
Photos by: Philippines Football League