There was a rainbow after the rain at the PFF National Training Centre in Carmona, Cavite which resonated with what everyone felt about the start of the 2020 Philippines Football League brought to you by Qatar Airways, and that is, after a long break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local football is back and despite playing without the fans in the venue, it improved on so many levels.
The first matchday of the league is now in the books and the first two matches gave us a lot of excitement and hope that things will continue to get better. Without further ado, here’s Tito Jay’s Five Takeaway from matchday one.
1) ADT’s lackluster performance
There was a lot of anticipation of what the Azkals Development Team can do in their maiden season in the PFL as the squad has been bolstered by talented youngsters vying for a spot in the senior national team squad.
They have the likes of Yrik Gallantes, Christian Rontini, and of course, Jarvey Gayoso. However, it felt like these kids were not clicking with each other yet as they failed to string good chances in order to threaten the United City FC.
It seems like the ADT squad froze when they saw the likes of Bienvenido Marañon, Robert Lopez-Mendy, and Stephan Schröck stringing passes and keeping the ball in their possession for most of the time, but more on that later.
A staggering 75% possession rate was enough to tell that UCFC dominated this match against a young ADT side. The Young Azkals, despite having less time with the ball tried their best but turns out, their best wasn’t good enough.
They were only able to bring the game into life inside the last 15 minutes of the match thanks as well to the introduction of Jerome Marzan and Lance Ocampo as replacements for Mari Angeles and Gallantes.
The pace of the match really changed after ADT head coach Scott Cooper made these changes and that was when they were able to threaten the opposition.
Manny Ott’s red card on the 84th minute also played its part for the ADT however, despite the fact having a man advantage, they still weren’t able to capitalize.
2) United City’s Dominance
As discussed earlier, United City FC dominated most of the possession of the ball and they needed to as they wanted to prove that the core of former PFL Champions Ceres-Negros FC is still with them to help them grab their first silverware in the history of their club.
The Ott combination worked wonders for the debutants as through this combination, they got the opening goal in the 25th minute. It was also a rocket sent to the back of the net by Mike Ott.
In the entire match, UCFC registered six shots on goal, four of them being on target. They also forced ADT to commit 24 fouls. Though they went a man down towards the end of the match, it didn’t feel like it as they stayed organized.
What also worked well for UCFC was the fact that they kept the ball away from the opposition and consistently switching the play from left to right thanks to the vision and accurate passing of Takashi Odawara.
He’s been the anchor at the back for his side and kept on providing instructions to his team tomake sure that they stay as compact as possible to allow their short passes to click.
All in all, UCFC’s first match after being renamed was a success and still showed a glimpse of the style of play of the club they inherited it from. They just need to stay focused and keep their composure if they want to exit the bubble with the title in their hands.
3) Kaya FC’s possession prowess but lacked the finish
In the second game of matchday one, Kaya FC-Iloilo won over Maharlika Manila FC with such a small margin despite dominating most of the possession and firing a lot of shots against the opposition.
Coach Yu Hoshide’s wards played the ball really well, switching the play from left to right, attacking even from the middle where the pressure was immense, but when it comes to the final third, the finishing was not as expected from the Ilonggo side.
Taking 18 shots on goal, 10 of which was on target and most of them going straight to Henry Bandeken’s hands, Kaya FC has a lot to improve on with their finishing.
It also showed the old style of Kaya where they would string five to 10 passes before going for the kill but instead of taking a shot when they are open, it seems like they wanted to push it inside the box for a clearer shot on goal which obviously, did not work well for them.
The saving grace of the match for Kaya was the clinical finishing of Jayson Panhay in the 31st minute of the match. A lovely weighted pass from Daizo Horikoshi matched with a first-touched strike from the San Carlos city native.
Giving credit where is due, on the other hand, Maharlika Manila FC really held their ground well against a very dominant side in their maiden PFL match.
Anton Del Rosario, founder of the said club, looked like his vintage self despite playing the last 10 or 15 minutes of the match with an aching hand due to an earlier challenge. It would be a big question mark for Maharlika if he can start again for their next match against Stallion Laguna FC.
It was also unfortunate for Coach Roxy Dorlas’ side that Serge Kaole left the match after just 12 minutes due to an injury. By the looks of it, Kaole might’ve injured his right ankle after a tackle on Daiso Horikoshi.
Had he stayed longer in the match or probably completed the 90 minutes, we might be telling you a different story. All of us were robbed of the opportunity to see what Kaole can do in the counter given his height and physique.
4) Livestream breaking barriers
With the much-anticipated return of the PFL being delayed for a long time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was expected that the fans will be glued to their TV screens (smart TVs in this case), mobile phones, desktops, or laptops thanks to a more comprehensive broadcast.
The games were made available on several platforms. It was aired on the PFL’s official facebook page and youtube channel as well as to 1 Play Sports’ platform made available for their viewers within Southeast Asia.
After matchday one, the PFL recorded an all-time high 70,000+ views across the two matches on Facebook alone. They also garnered close to 20,000 views on their Youtube channel.
By the looks of it, the fans were really waiting for the return of the country’s top-flight club football competition and they were not disappointed as they were treated to 180 minutes of non-stop action and physicality.
As Cedelf Tupas said during the commentary before the match between Kaya FC Iloilo and Maharlika Manila FC, “It’s celebration of Philippine football tonight (October 28, 2020).”
5) Hardwork finally pays off
The PFL was scheduled to kick off back in March 2020 but due to the lockdown, the fans needed to wait for more than seven months but for a good reason.
A lot of work was needed to be done to make sure that the league can push through amidst the pandemic. From getting the approval from the IATF and GAB to executing the protocols to make sure the virus will not burst the bubble, the PFL followed everything to the letter and so far, they are doing a great job.
There was a moment of uncertainty as last October 25th as the league was halted again due to the tropical depression Quinta and some players testing positive to COVID-19.
However, they managed to isolate the virus and take necessary actions and, alas, the league kicked off, fans were treated to a spectacular opening day, and we’re about to see more of that in the next coming days.