A recap of Saturday's Quarterfinals of the SMART-PFF National Club Championship in the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Ceres 1, Global 0.
Ceres FC's carriage refuses to turn into a pumpkin just yet.
A week after dumping Penson Stallion in the opening round, the Little Team That Could from Bacolod sprung another surprise when they bettered Global thanks to a twelfth-minute goal from British striker Peter Long.
The score, off a superb through-ball from midfielder Jayson Panhay, was enough to send the defending champs crashing out of the competition.
Global, as Teknika FC, were victorious over SMART San Beda in the 2011 running of this event.
The UFL League champs squandered a passel of chances of their own, with Izo Elhabbib having an off-night, sending two strikes straight at Ceres goalie Hyeon Jae Hun, who served up a Man Of The Match performance.
Patrick Reichelt also misfired, with a header and a long shot wide just before the half.
Global coach Brian Reid adopted a 3-4-3 formation in the second half and sent in Matthew Uy for defender Jerry Barbaso late in the second half but to no avail. Ceres' 4-5-1 formation foiled them at every turn.
Hyeon was magnificent in the closing minutes, denying Elhabbib by coming forward in the 78th, then narrowing the angle against Carlie De Murga to stop the Azkal six minutes later.
With three minutes to go De Murga tried a long-range chip but Hyeon tipped it over the crossbar.
Elhabbib had one last chance with a minute to spare but he could only send it straight to Hyeon.
The Bacolodnons had a few chances of their own, with Choi Gun Hee, off a lovely dummy by Daniel Sandoval, spraying wide in the 81st minute.
Ceres got a great shift from captain and right back Jason Cordova, who effectively organized a veritable United Colors of Benetton back four composed of himself, Koreans Park Keon Hyeong and and Sim Hyungmin, and Brit Danny Claxton.
“Nag-focus sa amin sistema. Focus kami sa middle third. Wag masyadong high press, wag masyadong mataas” explained the former Azkal and ex-Stallion from Santa Barbara, Iloilo.
There are calls from some to have the towering Cordova, part of the Azkals' Challenge Cup campaigns in 2008 and 2009, return to the national team, especially with a dearth of tall, young, healthy defenders available.
Global owner Dan Palami bemoaned his team's wastefulness in front of goal. “They (Ceres) had two shots on goal, they made one, we had lots and could make any. There's only one statistic that matters.”
Palami also felt that the game could have been officiated better. At one point Ceres' Rolando Treyes, who was already on a yellow card, got injured and a stretcher was brought out for him. He didn't use it to exit the field, which Palami thought should have merited a second yellow and an expulsion.
Match Coordinator Ritchie Gatchalian pointed out that it was still up to the discretion of referee Waling Bermejo if Treyes really had to use the stretcher.
“But im not taking anything away from Ceres” added Palami. “No matter how beautiful your build up is, if you can't score goals you can't win games.”
Freddie Lazarito, the Ceres coach, now prepares for a semifinal clash against Kaya next weekend.
OTHER NOTES: Ceres may not have midfielder Josh Beloya for the semis, since Beloya is slated to go to Doha, Qatar with the National Beach Soccer Team for World Cup Qualifiers on Sunday. Dolphins coach Mike Athab could be seen discussing the situation with Ceres team manager Ali Rojas Go after the game.... Go is a former national team player who has the distinction of scoring the goal for the Philippines when we lost to Indonesia 13-1 in the 2002 Tiger Cup.... Global did not have striker Denis Wolf at his disposal. The Azkal is suffering from ankle and hip issues and did not dress.... On the entrances of the Blue and Green Bleachers there could be seen, in plain view, clothes being hung out to dry. They were gone by the time the second game started.
Kaya 1, Loyola Meralco 0
For once, the team that struggles to score supplied the goal, while the club that likes to run it up couldn't find the back of the net.
Kaya's Ohjay Porteria beat Loyola keeper Ref Cuaresma with a surgical strike from an acute angle in the 58th minute after artfully controlling a diagonal ball from Jonah Romero.
“The left back was sleeping so I took advantage of that. I saw that he was left-footed so I faked to his right and just finished it” explained the teenager.
The goal was enough to propel the defensive-minded Kaya to the semis and doom Meralco, a team known for scoring in bushels, to another disappointing Cup finish.
The win exorcises the ghosts of the 2011 UFL Cup semis for Kaya. In that game a 3-0 halftime advantage over Loyola was erased by the Sparks, who went on to win 5-4.
The victory is also remarkable considering Kaya trotted out a makeshift defense necessitated by a spate of injuries and defections. Aly Borromeo and Anton Del Rosario are both hurt, Adrien Semblat has fled to Nomads, and Jason Sabio is back in the USA continuing his law studies.
Coach Maor Rozen put Swedish attacking mid Dario Dakic at centerback alongside Masanari Omura, with Junior Munoz and Eddie Mallari as the wingbacks.
The defense helped keeper Saba Sadeghi Garmaroudi rack up another clean sheet.
“He played perfect. I give him nine out of ten marks” was' Garmaroudi's mathematically erroneous but enthusiastic appraisal of Dakic's play.
“If he works on his skills and his tactical understanding of the game I have no doubt he can be one of the best defenders in the league” said Rozen.
It was a frustrating day for Loyola, who experimented with James Younghusband at holding midfield and Phil Younghusband playing from the left, with Chad Gould up top. That setup created a few chances in the first half and near the end of the game, but none hit the target.
“I don't know how many chances we had. We should have converted” rued coach Vince Santos.
Just before the half Gould was sacrificed for Simon Greatwich, which meant that there were three sets of brothers on the pitch at one time; the Younghusbands, Loyola's Hartmann brothers (Matt and Mark), and the Greatwiches. Simon's older brother Chris started for Kaya.
Santos brought in new signing Freddy Gonzalez and Jang Jo Won in the second half to try and spice up the attack.
As the final whistle neared Rodrigue Nembot almost leveled for Loyola but his shot was cleared off the line.
Gonzalez had three headers on goal in the dying minutes but none troubled the keeper.
OTHER NOTES: Kaya had difficulty bringing on some subs because a few of their players had shorts that were different from their current designs. The fourth official sent Vincent Ocampo and Antonio Ugarte back apparently for the same violation.... Kaya's Nate Burkey had a nasty gash open up on his head that required stitches after the game. He was replaced shortly after the half.... Phil Younghusband could be seen after the game with some blood oozing out his toes through a sock. Perhaps that injury prevented him from playing at his best.... The Ultras Kaya, Kaya's cheering squad, lit flares inside a stadium, a violation of FIFA regulations. This in spite of the fact that they were already told not to light flares during games by UFL officials in last year's Cup. They were asked to put them out by tournament media head Rick Olivares, but took a few minutes to do so. They were also seen throwing toilet paper onto the track. After the game the Kaya players sprinted to their spot on the Green Bleachers to thank them.
You can follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.