On a weekend when both Philippine Navy Red Juice and Philippine Army Fritz & Macziol were completely destroyed, the pressure was firmly on Philippine Air Force Phoenix to save a little face for the country’s Armed Forces. It has been a miserable season for our nation’s finest, with all three clubs reduced to the bottom half of the league standings.
Particularly surprising has been Air Force’s fall from grace, especially after such a promising Cup-winning run late in 2011. As well as being the defending League champions, few would’ve predicted the struggles that have ensued, leaving the side in seventh position, behind newly-promoted teams Nomads Auction Manila and Pasargad.
Sunday brought about a chance to rekindle some of the sparkle that has been routinely associated with the highly decorated club, facing a Nomads side that it defeated 3-0 back in February.
Although both teams had virtually nothing to play for, things got off to a petulant start with players from both camps getting cautioned with the game less than ten minutes in. It set the tone for a tight affair that remained scoreless at the half.
Air Force talisman Chieffy Caligdong came out firing in the second half though, opening the scoring just five minutes after the restart. He gave the Airmen further breathing space when he doubled his tally four minutes later, moving his side closer to just their fourth win of the season.
This year has been anything but straightforward for the defending champs though, and almost on cue, David Denison found the back of the net late in the game,throwing the result in doubt. Chieffy wouldn’t allow another slip-up however, working his magic one last time as he set up Azkals teammate Ian Araneta to restore a two-goal advantage which eventually rendered Randy Musters’ goal in stoppage time useless.
Despite the tight 3-2 scoreline being far from convincing, the win will undoubtedly buoy a struggling Air Force side that has an extremely tough week ahead of it. The Airmen battle title challengers Loyola Meralco Sparks (June 19) and Global (June 23) in quick succession, providing a platform for them to show if they are still indeed a force to be reckoned with in Division One.
Will we see a rousing return to form, or be witness to the sad demise of a great Air Force squad? The next few days should tell.
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.