Copa Paulino Alcantara

The Huddle PH Year-End Review Part 1: Philippines Football League & Copa Paulino Alcantara

We had joy, we had sadness, we screamed to the top of our lungs, and we cried like there was no tomorrow but everyone, and I mean every one of us supporting this beautiful sport in our country won together as the year closes with a bang.

The team came together to bring you our in-depth review of all the things that happened in Philippine Football and how it will affect the upcoming 2020 season. We start off first with Tito Jay with his review with the Philippines Football League.

The Mighty Busmen

They came, they saw, and they conquered. Despite a very tight and tiring schedule due to their AFC Champions League qualification and AFC Cup campaign this season, Ceres-Negros FC completed a three-peat in the Philippines Football League as they ran riot against any opponent that came up against them.

They went away as The Invincibles in the league as they didn’t lose a single game and only drew twice against Stallion Laguna FC. This feat just came out to be a historic one as they became the first one to win the league without any defeat in their cards.

They also powered their way past Kaya FC-Iloilo to take the Copa Paulino Alcantara from Iloilo to Negros. In a thrilling match witnessed by a capacity crowd at the Biñan Football Stadium, Ceres-Negros FC showed they got what it takes to win the cup despite being depleted to just 13 players that day due to some of their players being given early breaks and some with the Azkals for their international duties.

2019 was the year the busmen proved that they are the best among the rest and with an undefeated season in the books, next year will then be a test for their capabilities when they start their AFC Champions League qualification against a familiar opponent in Shan United.

Inconsistency cost Kaya FC-Iloilo a splendid season

Despite being one of the strongest clubs in Philippine Football, Kaya FC-Iloilo’s trophy cabinet remains a title short. For the third straight season, it’s been the inconsistency that brought Kaya FC down and still waiting to win their first-ever league title.

The pride of Iloilo came out blazing at the start of the season amassing a five-game winning streak. Throughout that winning streak, they scored an average of 3.6 goals per match and four out of five clean sheets.

They first dropped their points when they went up against Green Archers United whom they defeated on the opening day via four goals to nil. The green archers managed to hold Kaya FC to a scoreless draw back on the sixth of July.

Despite bouncing back after that draw, they went on to taste their first defeat in the season against the defending champions Ceres-Negros FC as they bounced their way back into the match to win two goals to one.

From that defeat against their rivals, they went on a winless season against the defending champions and also lost the Copa Paulino Alcantara to a depleted Ceres-Negros FC side. All in all, they won the games they were expected to win but didn’t do it convincingly.

And when it comes to the matches that matters the most, it seems like they just crumble into little pieces rather than operate as a single unit. To be fair, it was still a respectable performance from Kaya FC for this season as they finished second with 17 points separating them from Stallion Laguna FC.

A more improved Stable

For years, it’s been a mystery for us here in the country as to why Stallion Laguna FC, on their third year in the Philippines Football League has yet to impose their dominance just like the other two clubs whose been ripping the league apart.

However, despite finishing third in the league this season, it was still an improved Stallion Laguna FC side that we’ve seen. They’ve shown some qualities that took us back in time and felt like it was 2013 again where they crowned as champions of the now-defunct United Football League.

It was kind of a dream start of the season for the Biñan-based booters as they prevented the defending champions Ceres-Negros FC the kick-off to the season that they were looking for. Stallion Laguna made it hard for the three-time PFL champions as the match finished to a 2-2 draw.

Though they would drop two more games against the busmen, they were able to hold them off again, this time to a 1-1 stalemate on the 28th of September.

Stallion Laguna also showed their scoring prowess this season as they finished with 54 goals scored in the league. They were able to string a few huge wins in the league including a 9-1 demolition of Global Cebu FC.

Coach Ernie Nierras’ side might’ve been hit by the inconsistency bug as well but they still showed that with their relentless attitude and continuous hard work, they will, one day, be in line with the best two clubs in the country and compete for a silverware in the 2020 season.

Welcome back to the top-flight

After almost three years of absence in the top-flight club football competition, Green Archers United, Mendiola FC 1991 and Philippine Air Force FC’s first season back in the higher echelon of club football in the country seemed to be productive.

Starting off with Green Archers United, they were once a club seen to have the traits of being a giant killer in their glory days back in the UFL. Though they usually finish 6th to 8th place amongst 10 teams in the league, one can never count them out.

In their participation in the PFL, however, it was rather shaky but they still delivered. They’ve won 10 matches out of their total 24, drew five and dropped nine. GAU also produced quite a number of exciting matches in the PFL this year starting off with a slim three goals to four defeat against Ceres-Negros FC.

Following that performance, they held the former Copa Paulino Alcantara champions Kaya FC-Iloilo to a scoreless draw before dispatching Global Cebu FC to an annihilating 9-nil drubbing. It might be a rollercoaster ride for the Green Archers but they still proved that they belong to the big leagues and they are here to stay.

Moving on with Mendiola FC 1991, they proved to be the side who can shake things up a bit and give the mainstays Kaya FC-Iloilo, Ceres-Negros FC and Stallion Laguna FC some trouble in their league and cup campaign.

The 2011 PFF National Men’s Club Championship runners-up started off on the wrong foot in the league after a five-one humbling by the Green Archers United before getting their first point of the season against Philippine Air Force FC in a 1-1 draw on the 8th of June.

After losing to Stallion Laguna and Kaya FC and conceding a total of 12 goals in a span of two games, Coach Dan Padernal and the rest of the squad said enough is enough and went on to win their next match against Global Cebu FC via three goals to nil.

Another defeat came their way when they faced the league champions but they quickly bounced back with a 3-1 victory over Philippine Air Force FC and, despite the defeat, a respectable performance against Stallion Laguna FC that frustrated coach Nierras as it only ended at one-nil.

Without going into details of their entire league performance, we can already say that given the manpower that they need, they can pull off an upset against the top three teams in the league and make a name for their own.

Keep in mind that after the mid-season transfer window, Mendiola FC 1991 revamped their squad and started to find their winning ways. They also made it to the semifinals of the Copa Paulino Alcantara after finishing second in their group.

Though they would lose to the former champions Kaya FC-Iloilo in the semis, they still put on a show and gave Kaya the challenge they were looking for. If all things go according to plan for Mendiola, we might see some shocker come the 2020 season which will be much welcomed.

Lastly, with Philippine Air Force FC, despite not being in their tip-top shape just like when they won the first domestic cup double back in 2011 when the UFL still existed, things are still looking bright for the future of our Airmen in the league.

With a record of three wins, two draws and 19 defeats, Philippine Air Force FC knew they tried their best but it was just not enough. We saw how they tried to be at par with the best clubs in the country but, without the proper squad and training, it would be difficult for any club to do that.

Nevertheless, their victories against Global FC and Mendiola FC can be something they can use to inspire them in the upcoming 2020 league. Let’s not forget that they also frustrated Kaya FC-Iloilo in their two-game stint in Iloilo where Kaya should be seen playing their best in front of their home crowd.

Instead, they only won two goals to one against the Airmen. Yes, they would bounce back and win five goals to nil after three days but the fact that they were able to rattle Kaya in front of their passionate fans can just tell you that they can pull off an upset.

Match of the Year: Ceres-Negros FC 4-3 Stallion Laguna FC (Copa Paulino Alcantara Semifinals: Biñan Football Stadium)

We’ve seen a lot of exciting encounters in the league as well as the cup but only one stood out the most for us. The 2019 “The Huddle PH Match of the Year” goes to the seven-goal thriller between Ceres-Negros FC and Stallion Laguna FC in the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara Semifinals.

This game had everything. Goals, drama, emotions inside and outside the pitch, and whatever a thrilling football match have. In this match, Ceres-Negros FC clawed their way back and made sure they get to win this match and progress to the final.

The first half of the contest saw Edris Najm and Abou Sy put Stallion Laguna FC ahead in just 15 minutes. It was on the 9th minute of the match where they drew first blood as Abou Sy squared the ball to the path of Najm who then blasted the ball into the back of the net.

Six minutes after the opener, Sy received a gorgeous cross from Jongcheol Park inside the box but he still had to work as he’s crowded by two defenders.

Sy’s first try against Roland Muller was saved but when he pounced on the rebound, the defence could not do anything to salvage it.

And for the continuation of that match report, you can click here to read our very own Kent Garcia’s article about it. Do you agree with us that this is the match of the season? Let us know in the comments what you think!

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