Matchday two of the Philippines Football League brought to you by Qatar Airways revolved around these four words. Comeback, domination, uncertainty, and massive improvements.
The excited we experience on matchday one was no match to what matchday two has to offer. Two sides got their start of the season in Stallion Laguna FC and Mendiola FC 1991 but it was not the way they wanted to do so.
Let’s take a look at Tito Jay’s five takeaways from the festivities last October 31, 2020 at the PFF National Training Centre in Carmona, Cavite.
1) Never-say-die Maharlika Manila FC‘s historic win in the PFL
They seemed to be down already in the first half after Stallion Laguna FC‘s Ibrahim N’Dour opened the scoring but Maharlika Manila FC saved their best efforts toward the second half.
With the introduction of Jose Montelibano at the half, things spurred back into life for Coach Roxy Dorlas’ side and on the 53rd minute, Tondo FC standout MJ Libre provided the goods for Montelibano to level the score.
What stood out the most was the way Libre found Montelibano. Libre worked his way to cut in then sent an incisive pass for Montelibano to slot past Nelson Gasic.
The comeback was then completed on the 75th minute thanks to Jeremy Theuer who was just subbed in before scoring the goal. Charlie Beaton almost replicated Libre’s assist by cutting in from the left side before passing it to Theuer.
With this comeback win, Maharlika Manila FC officially records their first three points in top-flight club football in the country and it looks like they are just starting to warm up.
“Words cannot express how happy I feel about this victory,” said Dorlas after a tremendous performance from his boys and nonetheless, against a veteran in club football, Stallion Laguna FC.
2) Bienvenido Marañon just can’t stop scoring
Seven months without football? What’s that? That must’ve been what’s going inside Bienvenido Marañon’s head as he scored his first hat-trick of the season and plumetted himself at the top of the scorer’s list in the competition.
He made scoring look easy as 13 minutes into the match, he already opened his account in the 2020 season with a header thanks to a lovely assist from Stephan Schröck and from there, he immediately completed his hat-trick in the first half.
“It doesn’t matter if I score one, two or three goals what matters is that the team won and we got our three points,” said Marañon.
The AFC Cup record goalscorer also said, “Scoring goals is the result of hard work and dedication. I didn’t stop training even during quarantine at home. I’m happy that all the work I did in the past seven months gave me great results.”
He may have scored the hat-trick but it’s something he wouldn’t get without the help of his teammates as well. “I’m very happy to score the hat-trick but even more, for the performance of the team. We did a great job and we are on the way we want.”
3) League mainstays failed to impress on their first outing this season
It wasn’t the ideal opening day for coach Dan Padernal of Mendiola FC 1991 and assist coach Richard Leyble of Stallion Laguna FC as they both suffered painful defeats against their opponents.
In a compressed season like this, every game counts, and knowing that you are one of the favorites to win the title this season, dropping points against a newcomer could sting a lot.
“Without our three starters in our first 11 it was difficult for us,” said coach Leyble whose missing key players Nathan Alquiros, Ricky Sendra and Abou Sy in this match.
They had the lead in the first half but they just didn’t look the same in the second especially after they conceded the equalizer. Even Maharlika Manila FC players noticed that they lost their composure and pushed even further to get the winning goal.
On the other hand, coach Padernal’s side who aimed to impress this season did otherwise in their opening match against a re-branded Ceres-Negros FC side now known as United City FC.
“You really cannot make silly mistakes against a top-caliber team like United City and not pay for it,” said Padernal during the post-match presser showing his disgust in all the opportunities his side gave to UCFC.
They’ll have to regroup fast as it will just get tougher for them. Stallion Laguna FC will face Kaya FC-Iloilo next on November 3 while Mendiola faces the ADT.
4) ADT finally showing improvements
After a disappointing first match against UCFC where they were simply dominated in all parts of the game, the Azkals Development Team showed a totally different game against Kaya FC-Iloilo.
Compared to their last match, they held around 52% of the ball and had more shots as well. It’s as if Scott Cooper brought these kids back to life and told them to play their best possible game ever.
“Obviously Kaya FC-Iloilo was the better team tonight. My boys still lack composure and our structure was not that strong compared to what we had against UCFC. It would be nice to see a score but overall my team was not too bad. Against two teams that are playing in the AFC Cup, I believe we did quite well,” said ADT head coach Cooper.
They also held Kaya to just six shots on goal compared to 18 from their match against Maharlika. The only thing that saved last year’s runners-up was the goal from Kenshiro Daniels thanks Mar Diano misjudging the long ball from Audie Menzi.
5) Kaya FC-Iloilo starting to get into more trouble
Winning last time around against Maharlika FC by just a goal can be forgiven as the rust of the long break is still evident but replicating that results against a side that doesn’t have much experience in top-flight club football, that’s quite unacceptable already.
Kaya FC-Iloilo toyed around the ADT last match but still wasn’t able to find the right formula to win by a huge margin. Now that UCFC pummelled Mendiola, the virtual newcomers make it to the top of the standings with six points and +7 on goal difference.
Yes, Arnel Amita and Daizo Horikoshi might’ve played around the players of the ADT a bit to open up the spaces but their strikers were simply off the mark.
Team captain and second-half sub Jovin Bedic was given some golden opportunities in front of Quincy Kameraad but either he shoots the ball over the bar or sends it directly to Quincy’s path.
Kaya also experienced the pressure they never had against Maharlika Manlia FC as the ADT kept on pushing them to commit mistakes since the first whistle.
They seemed to be outmuscled from all the parts of the pitch including the shots on goal. ADT garnered eight, five of which on target. Passing wise, both of them tallied at 203 passes but ADT had a slight advantage in their completion rate as they got 58% compared to Kaya’s 47%.
“Without Mitchell we would not have won,” said coach Hoshide whose few words bring a complete view of what might’ve happen if Carlyle Mitchell is not there to save them from all the attack ADT provided.
Now that their second game is in the books, they UCFC only on goal difference but then, they will be facing Stallion Laguna FC whose looking to bounce back after their opening game defeat.
Photo Credits: Philippines Football League