After a crucial week for Stallion Giligan’s, the Division One title race is tighter than ever.
There isn’t any space at the top for the season’s early leader though, as Stallion could only manage a draw with Kaya in midweek, before getting trumped 3-0 by the Loyola Meralco Sparks on Saturday — virtually ending all hopes for the title.
While the Younghusbands ensured their club went top of the table after dispatching Ernie Nierras’ side, Kaya wasn’t to be left behind as it once again did just enough to get a victory against Philippine Navy Redjuice.
Eric Dagroh scored the opener and what would be the winner on the 21st minute, in a match that also featured Anton Del Rosario in more of an attacking role. The change in position for the reliable defender means coach Kale Alvarez is still looking for the best way to maximize his squad. The win put Kaya level with league leaders Loyola on 31 points, but the team’s supporters will be anxious to see what side Alvarez puts out when the clash against the Sparks comes around.
In the last match of the weekend, Global had the opportunity to reclaim top spot when it bumped heads with Nomads Auction Manila. Angel Guirado was back in the starting lineup after getting married in Spain, and he got himself reacquainted very quickly, picking up a yellow card with the game only 10 minutes in.
Global was already ahead at the time though, with Patrick Reichelt opening the scoring on the 7th minute, but Nomads, proving stubborn, leveled things through Michael Schaefer right before half-time. Fresh from a 4-0 drubbing of Pasargad the week before, Global was expected to find a way through in the second half, and signs were positive as they bossed possession. Nomads stayed resolute though, with the go-ahead goal proving elusive for both clubs. The 1-1 result meant Global settled for second place in the standings, behind Loyola on goal difference, while Nomads is still on course for its push to finish in the top half.
Green Archers United and Pasargad played out a 1-1 draw in the early Sunday kickoff. Reynald Villareal opened the scoring for United in the first half, but Mohammed Ohadi leveled with 16 minutes left in the game. Despite the draw, both sides benefited from the outcome, as Green Archers inched its way five points clear of relegation, while Pasargad is making inroads to the middle of the standings.
In the other game on Saturday, Philippine Air Force Phoenix’s struggles continued, failing to make the most of an extra man advantage for the final 30 minutes of the game. Philippine Army Fritz & Macziol’s Jeoffrey Lobaton was shown a straight red with the score tied at one apiece, and while Ian Araneta looked to have sealed all three points when he snatched the lead a few minutes later, Air Force’s season-long shaky defense proved the culprit once again.
Despite all the odds stacked against his side, Romano Vestal overcame adversity to equalize ten minutes after, ensuring the match finished with the same result as the one played out in the first round back in late January.
The top three are all tied at 31 points now, with Stallion nine points adrift of the pack. Only five games remain in Division One of the UFL, and it’s still anyone’s guess as to who will be on top of the rest when all the chips are down.
It’s always the next game which is most important though, and one thing is for certain, all eyes will be on Kaya and Loyola when they bump heads on Saturday. The Sparks prevailed quite comfortably in the first round, 2-0, but plenty has changed between the two sides since mid-February. With a chance to seize the top looming in the coming weekend, just like you, I can’t wait.
Josue Jamlang covers football for InterAKTV and announces matches for AKTV on IBC. He served as an assistant technical director for the UFL during its maiden season. Follow him on Twitter for more football discussion.