Stallions FC reached for the moon and came up with the stars.
Overcoming the unavailability of its head coach, the suspension of its top striker, and the pressure of needing a win and a bunch of goals, the Iloilo-based eleven put the big hurt on Cebu Queen City United FC with a telling 8-0 win at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on Saturday.
After last weekend’s 2-nil loss to Pachanga, Stallions worked its Korean connection to perfection as they picked apart the Cebuano team with seamless passing and clinical finishing.
With Korean Pee Hyung Eun taking over the coaching chores for the second straight match with head coach Ernie Nierras still in Laos for the Asean Football Federation Women’s Championship, Stallions ran a compact 4-4-2 formation that choked the life out of the ground passing game of Cebu Queen City.
Then the Ilonggos began raiding their opponent from the wings.
In only the 10th minute, Ruben Doctora Jr. raced up the right flank to send a perfectly placed cross inside the box that teammate Chester Braga latched onto. With a couple of Cebu defenders marking him, Braga laid it back to an open Joo Young Lee, who was unmarked from some 20 yards out. The Korean midfielder’s strike was exquisite; 1-nil Stallion.
Seven minutes later, defender Yong Jae Pi added to the tally following a superb run through the flatfooted defenders.
In the 27th minute, following another cross inside the box that the Cebuano defenders were unable to clear properly, Braga and Doctora found the ball right in front of them. Braga turned and fired it past keeper Alex Buanghog Jr. for a 3-nil lead.
And the rout was on. In the second half, Stallions forward Jae Woo Kim scored a hat trick while Doctora added a brace of his own.
Although the match was a rout, Cebu was not without its chances. It had several clear scoring chances including instances when all they had to do was slot it into the net. Cebu coach Mario Ceniza rued the botched opportunities and said maybe one or two first half goals could have greatly changed the complexion of the game.
“This is our first time to experience a major competition and we were quite shocked at the level of talent and intensity here in this tournament,” said Ceniza before the match. “We hope that with continued exposure we will get better.”
Global FC head coach Graeme MacKinnon, who made his debut in the defending Cup champion’s 3-nil win over Cebu, agreed with Ceniza’s comments. “The final score doesn’t say much about how Cebu played. They had their chances and they played much better here than in our own win. Why? This (Rizal Memorial Football Stadium) is a much better pitch (than the University of Makati),” he said.
Cebu’s loose 4-3-3 formation hurt the team, and Ceniza said that his side had to fix their spacing and linking up the midfield, as his forwards oft found themselves in Stallions territory with hardly any support.
Eun, team manager JR Robles, and consultant Bob Bayona refused to place pressure on the Stallions prior to the match. “Our real target was to score six goals in the match because that would help us advance as per points and goal difference,” said Robles. “After the half when we scored three, it was okay to set the target because we knew that we had the game in hand.”
The win put Stallions in a prime position to advance to the next round of the UFL Cup after they garnered six points in three matches to go with a +7 goal differential. But Stallions will have to wait out the final matches of Group C as Pachanga has only played one match so far.
Notes: In the three-year history of Stallions FC, it has won one championship and that was in 2009, for the Aboitiz Cup where the Iloilo team saw national players like Roel Gener and Nestor Margarse Jr. suiting up… Stallions FC has a foot in the door for the UFL’s Division One… Queen City arrived at 11 p.m. on Friday night, as most of their players just got out of work… Cebu Goalkeeper Alex Buanghong is a policeman with the rank SPO2… Some of the Cebuano players were under the tutelage of Graeme MacKinnon and Ceniza for the Lhuillier Sports Group.