LaLiga is back with El Gran Derbi opener

(Via LaLiga)

LaLiga returns on June 11th with El Gran Derbi between Sevilla FC and Real Betis. The remaining eleven matchdays of the league season will be played consecutively over the following six weeks until July 19th.

After three months without football in Spain due to the global COVID-19 crisis, LaLiga is finally set to return. The season will kick-off again in grand fashion with the massive clash between Sevilla FC and Real Betis, known as El Gran Derbi serving as the first of the 110 matches left to play this campaign.

The league season will continue uninterrupted for the following six weeks until July 19th, the evolution of the pandemic in Spain and health authorities permitting. Those account for a possible thirty-nine days in a row with football practically every day, with matches at 19:30 and 22:00 CET (plus 14:00 and 17:00 CET on weekends), and with broadcast innovations: virtual stands, virtual fan audio and new camera angles.

Six weeks of passionate football with everything in LaLiga Santander still on the line as FC Barcelona and Real Madrid neck and neck in vying for the title, separated by just two points. The same gap exists between the third- and sixth-placed sides relentlessly fighting for European spots.

Meanwhile, a fierce battle is ongoing in the fight against relegation, with six teams in the mix. A host of world-class matches await us, including FC Barcelona vs Atletico de Madrid, Real Madrid vs Valencia CF, Sevilla FC vs FC Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid vs Real Sociedad.

The restart has been made possible due to the efforts of LaLiga during the lockdown, in particular the exhaustive and comprehensive protocol developed together with the Spanish health authorities which allowed the clubs to return to training safely.

Over a month of Spring โ€˜pre-seasonโ€™ meticulously adapted to a โ€˜new realityโ€™ across society, and scrupulously followed by clubs and players. This effort to guarantee the safety of all professionals involved while ensuring the return of football will finally reap its reward with the restart of the season on June 11th (June 12 in the Philippines).

Photo credit: LaLiga

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AFC Cup 2020: Kaya leads Group H after draw with PSM Makassar

Kaya FC-Iloilo mustered a 1-1 draw against 10-man host PSM Makassar in their AFC Cup 2020 Group H match held in Gelora Bung Karno Madya Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia last March 10, 2020.

The match started with Kaya presented with what seems a favorable opportunity to pounce on early in the match when the hosts went down to ten men in just the 11th minute as defender Dedy Gusmawan was slapped with a second yellow card.

Hover, the Filipino side wasn’t able to capitalize on their advantage in terms of manpower as they were not able to find the back of the net, rather PSM Makassar seemed to have used the situation as motivation as they found themselves with the breakthrough after 10 minutes when Osas Saha received a through ball that carved the middle of Kaya’s defense, converting the ensuing chance.

With the onus to equalize lying with Kaya FC, despite some half-chances that arrived, PSM Makassar were able to hold on to their lead until the end of the first half as both squads headed onto the break separated by Osas’ lone goal in favor of the hosts.

Four minutes into the second half, after a sustained spell of applied pressure, Kaya FC-Iloilo eventually produced the leveler as Eric Giganto connected with substitute Nano Amita’s well-placed cross for a looping header that gave the opposing keeper no chance.

Two minutes after the hour mark, Kaya should have gotten the lead with Giganto once again having a golden opportunity to unleash from close range but his effort went way over the bar.

In the 70th minute, PSM Makassar created an opportunity to get into the driver’s seat with Yakob Sayuri’s drive at pace narrowly missing the target as parity was maintained.

Nine minutes later, it was Takumi Uesato’s turn to put the visitor’s ahead as his shot off a delivery from Jayson Panhay was well saved by Hilman Syah as the decider has yet to arrive.

A few more promising chances arrived for both squads late in the game, but the winning goal came hard to come by as the match ended in a draw with the spoils shared.

The result puts Kaya FC-Iloilo at the top of Group H with five points while PSM Makassar settle in third. But their hold of the lead is only momentary depending on the result of the other match between Tampines Rovers and Shan United.

Kaya FC next hosts PSM Makassar on April 15.

Kaya FC, Tampines Rovers settle score in a goalless draw

Hosts Kaya FC-Iloilo and Tampines Rovers failed to find the back of the net as both squads ended their clash goalless last February 26 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Filipino side started much better with some half-chances early on while Tampines Rovers were still adjusting to the ebb and flow of the game.

As the clock approached the tenth minute, the Stags were able to assert themselves more as they started to conjure some attacking plays.

A minute before the first quarter of an hour, left midfielder Jordan Webb was able to break free of his marker but his attempt while at speed, at a tight angle can only fly over the bar.

Immediately the next minute, Kaya mounted a momentary siege of Tampines’ box but opportunities fleetingly came and went without getting the breakthrough.

In the 22nd minute a golden opportunity came for the Stags as the ball fell kindly on the path of Irwan Shah Arismail’s foot to unleash from close range but Kaya keeper Mike Casas was equal to it with a reflex save.

A few nervous moments arrived against Kaya FC as the Singaporeans peppered the hosts with some promising plays but the Filipino side were able to hold their fort and keep the stalemate.

In the 28th minute Jayson Panhay could have scored the opening goal for Kaya from a direct freekick but his well-curled effort flew agonizingly wide of the near post.

The game then proceeded with both teams trading possessions but neither was able to get a good look to score the icebreaker.

At the 42nd minute, Tampines had another half-decent chance with forward Boris Kopitovic unleashing a pile-driver in stride and at an angle, but his effort fizzed just over the bar.

Kopitovic’s attempt would be the last decent effort at goal as halftime arrived with the match goalless and finely in the balance.

Early in the second half, Tampines Rovers almost got ahead with Madhu Mohana’s strike inside the box deflected by a Kaya defender but Casas, once again, came up with a reflex save to deny the chance and maintain parity.

In the subsequent minutes after the hour mark, Kaya were able to control the match for the most part as they controlled the possession, but were not able to convert.

A late golden chance came for the Singaporean visitors with Webb releasing Kopitovic who duly produced a goal-bound effort but once again, Casas was the savior who kept the parity.

Tampines Rovers suddenly came alive in the final minutes as they knocked on Kaya’s door on several occasions. Meanwhile, Kaya had their few moments in injury time, but it wasn’t meant to be as the tie ended in a goalless draw.

Kaya FC-Iloilo will next visit Indonesian side PSM Makassar on March 10.

Photo credit: Kaya FC-Iloilo

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Ceres-Negros, Than Quang Ninh share spoils in four-goal draw

A heated encounter between Philippine champions Ceres-Negros FC and Vietnamese side Than Quang Ninh FC ended in a battling 2-2 draw in the AFC Cup 2020 Group G match held in Rizal Stadium last February 25.

In the early proceedings, the match exhibited a stop-start pace as both sides tried to weigh each other, exhibiting physicality, with some fouls committed on both ends.

But at the seventh minute, the hosts showed signs with regards to their capabilities on the attack, particularly on the wing play at the right flank with OJ Porteria and Robert Lopez Mendy almost connecting.

A good run of spell in possession followed for Ceres-Negros as they were able to dictate the proceedings in the moments that followed.

At the 14th minute, Than Quang Ninh had a decent chance though to score the breakthrough off a corner kick, but the headed attempt just flew wide of the near post as it remained a stalemate after the first quarter of an hour.

Despite the threat, the busmen were able to regain their bearings as they dictated once again the match with a promising chance arriving in the 24th minute as Stephan Schrock produced a teasing low pass across the opposition’s goalmouth only for the ball to marginally avoid the lurking forwards, Bienvenido Maranon and Lopez Mendy.

However that chance proved to be something that they would immediately rue as the Vietnamese side found themselves in front in the 26th minute after capitalizing on a defensive error with forward Jermie Lynch guiding the ball with such precision to find the back of the net.

Ceres immediately tried to respond with two consecutive chances from headers, but the equalizer proved elusive with half an hour gone.

Six minutes later, Manuel Ott tried a speculative effort, but his attempt to pull off something spectacular came to naught as the shot missed the target.

However a late first-half drama ensued. As the hosts desperately tried to claw their way and come up with an equalizing goal, Bienvenido Maranon was fouled inside the box promoting Malaysian referee Mohd Amirul Rizwan to point to the spot.

The aggrieved Maranon, duly took the penalty with such audacity, converting a chipped effort to put the tie well in the balance, as both sides head into the break sharing a goal each.

After the restart, both sides went off the blocks by employing high pressure on both ends, trying to catch the opposition on the counter.

Nine minutes into the second half, after a well-worked passing play, Bienve Maranon found himself in a position to unleash and put Ceres ahead, but his lobbed effort went over the bar.

A similar situation faced Robert Lopez Mendy a few moments after but also his attempt went sky high.

In the 61st minute, after an excellent play initiated by Porteria that found Maranon, the ball eventually found Manuel Ott without opposition but his shot hit the bar.

That miss will not be much of a concern for the busmen in the next minute though, as Porteria eventually gave his side the lead, firing low from an angle that beat Than Quang Ninh keeper, Huyn Tuan Linh to send the stadium into raptures.

With the onus now on the visiting side to come up with a leveller, the hero miners eventually got what they were searching for in the 70th minute after a mix-up inside Ceres-Negros’ box gave midfielder Nguyen Hai Huy enough window for an opportunistic strike that caught Ceres keeper Roland Muller stranded and hushing the Rizal Memorial crowd into stunned silence.

Six minutes later another and the Vietnamese side produced another scare for the Philippine champions as another shot from range unleashed just scraped outside Muller’s left post, escaping what could definitely be a complicated deficit.

As both clubs searched for the wining goal, eventually the tie ended in a draw as both sides split points in Group G.

Ceres-Negros will next face Indonesian champions Bali United on March 11 in Rizal Stadium in what could be considered as the busmen’s biggest test yet in the early phase of this year’s continental tournament.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

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Azkals forward Mark Hartmann ends Ceres sojourn; joins PJ City

After a brief stay with Filipino champions Ceres-Negros FC, Philippine Azkals forward Mark Hartmann has completed another move, reportedly joining Malaysia Super League club Petaling Jaya City FC.

The development regarding his departure from Ceres has been confirmed yesterday by Hartmann himself via a social media post.

Although official confirmation has yet to be released, it is believed that his destination club is Petaling Jaya City FC, which in effect, completes its foreign quota in time for Malaysia Super League 2020 season.

Once the move is complete, 28-year old Hartmann is already no stranger to Malaysian club football as he already had previous stints with Sarawak FA and Penang FA respectively.

With the Filipino forward’s move away from Ceres, his short tenure as part of the busmen will be remembered for his contributions in the AFC Champions League 2020 qualification campaign where he featured as a substitute in the historic win over Thai club Port FC follow by the defeat against J1 League side FC Tokyo.

Before joining Ceres, Mark Hartmann played for Thai club Nakhon Ratchasima.

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Photo credit: The Azkals

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AFC Cup 2020 Boot Spotting: Ceres and Kaya creators in Group Stage Rd 1

The first round of AFC Cup 2020 group stage action concluded with Filipino clubs Ceres-Negros FC and Kaya FC-Iloilo getting positive starts, and they have their goal creators to thank for.

Without further delay here are the goal providers after the first round of matches in the AFC Cup.

OJ Porteria (WF/MF, Ceres-Negros: 2 Assists)

Provided Takashi Odawara’s 14th minute opening goal and Bienvenido Maraรฑon’s second in the 70th minute, OJ Porteria was in his element for Ceres in their AFC Cup 2020 campaign opener against Svay Rieng FC.

One of the busmen’s crucial pieces in their offense, Porteria’s pace, ball-control and flair make him either a goalscoring threat or a creator of chances. And in this particular fixture, OJ has been an excellent feeder for his strike partners.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

OJ Porteria’s boots: Nike Mercurial Vapor 13 Elite “New Lights” pack

Stephan Schrรถck (MF, Ceres-Negros: 1 ASSIST)

The AFC Cup 2019 assists leader, Ceres captain Stephan Schrรถck provided another deceivingly dangerous cross that Joshua Grommen converted in the 14th minute.

Always a threat in set pieces, and a steady source of chances in the attacking third, Schroecky is definitely a catalyst for his club. And once again, one of his efforts ended up being guided into the back of the net.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

Stephan Schrรถck’s boots: Nike Tiempo Legend 8 Elite

Manuel Ott (MF, Ceres-Negros FC: 1 ASSIST)

After a season overseas, Manny Ott returns to Ceres-Negros FC. Arguably considered as the best creative midfielder in Philippine football, perhaps one of the best in Southeast Asia, his return produced an assist for Bienvenido Maraรฑon in the 55th minute.

If Manny Ott already produced an assist in his return debut, then expect more chances and goals from him for Ceres as the campaign further unfolds both in the AFC Cup and the domestic league!

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

Manuel Ott’s boots: Nike Mercurial Superfly 6 Elite

Arnel Amita (MF, Kaya FC-Iloilo: 1 ASSIST)

Arguably the X-factor for Kaya FC-Iloilo against Shan United, just 10 minutes after being introduced into the match as a second half substitute, the impetus provided by Arnel Amita eventually led to the breakthrough as he was fouled inside the box meriting a penalty which Jovin Bedic converted.

After another ten minutes elapsed, Kaya found themselves two goals up as Eric Giganto unleashed a well-struck drive that drilled into the back of the net, with the feed courtesy of Amita’s well-timed pass. Now, talk about Mr. Quality Minutes!

Photo credit: Kaya FC-Iloilo

Arnel Amita’s boots: Nike Mercurial Superfly 6 Elite “LVL UP” pack

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AFC Cup 2020 Boot Spotting: Ceres and Kaya goal scorers in Group Stage Rd 1

With the first round of AFC Cup 2020 group stage action in the books, and Filipino clubs Ceres-Negros FC and Kaya FC-Iloilo beginning their respective campaigns on the right track, here the goal scorers and the boots they wear.

Bienvenido Maraรฑon (FW, Ceres-Negros FC: 2 GOALS)

Ceres-Negros’ prolific Spanish forward, Bienve Maraรฑon, scored a brace in the opener against Cambodian champions Svay Rieng FC, putting him jointly on top of the goal-scoring chart.

If this form can be maintained, the AFC Cup 2019 top scorer is poised for another productive season in the continental stage!

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

Bienvenido Maraรฑon’s boots: Nike Tiempo 8 Legend Elite

Takashi Odawara (MF/DF, Ceres-Negros FC: 1 GOAL)

A wise mid-season acquisition by the busmen last season, Japanese versatile defensive midfielder Takashi Odawara possesses a potent striking ability despite his mainly defensive duties as demonstrated by his goal against Svay Rieng near the edge of the box.

Although a regular haul is not expected from Odawara, it won’t come as a surprise if he could be an occasional option in attack and convert a few in crucial situations.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

Takashi Odawara’s boots: adidas X 18.1

Joshua Grommen (DF, Ceres-Negros FC: 1 GOAL)

After a two-year stint overseas, Josh Grommen made a homecoming to Ceres-Negros for the 2020 season. And in just his third appearance for the club this year (his second as a starter), Grommen opened his account in the AFC Cup against Svay Rieng.

Although replays show that the 23-year old enforcer may have used his hand in converting the chance fed by team captain Stephan Schrรถck, the goal stood eventually generating a momentary buzz in the footballing world as another “Hand of God” has been scored.

Josh Grommen’s boots: adidas Copa Gloro 19

Jovin Bedic (FW, Kaya FC-Iloilo: 1 GOAL)

Kaya FC-Iloilo skipper Jovin Bedic was clutch, converting what eventually has been a pivotal second half penalty kick for his club in a tough AFC Cup away opener against Burmese champions Shan United.

With the game finely on the balance, a momentary lapse on the part of the hosts tipped the scales in favor of the Filipino side when substitute Arnel Amita was fouled inside the box. Jovin Bedic stepped up to the occasion as he kept himself cool, calm and collected to convert from the spot without a hint of a doubt that served as the pivotal icebreaker.

Photo credit: AFC Cup

Jovin Bedic’s boots: Nike Mercurial Vapor 13 Elite

Eric Giganto (FW/MF, Kaya FC-Iloilo: 1 GOAL)

One of Kaya FC’s ever-dependable players the past few seasons, Eric Giganto once again demonstrated his importance to the team when he scored a late goal off a feed from Arnel Amita to put his club two-goals up against Shan United and erase all doubts in the tie.

Giganto’s knack for scoring late goals, particularly as a substitute, makes him virtually the club’s super-sub, and his jugular against Shan United further strengthened such case.

Photo credit: Kaya FC-Iloilo

Eric Giganto’s boots: Mizuno Morelia Neo

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Kaya FC opens AFC Cup 2020 campaign with massive, hard-fought win

Kaya FC-Iloilo opened their AFC Cup 2020 campaign with an all-important 2-0 win against Burmese champions Shan United FC in an away fixture held at Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar last February 12.

Three minutes after kick-off, Kaya were presented with a chance, but team captain Jovin Bedic and Takumi Uesato were not able to capitalize on the opportunity.

In the fifth minute, Kaya goalkeeper Louie Casas went on the receiving end of a high boot from a Shan united forward, but only foul was called. Two minutes later, a set-piece, delivered by Jason Panhay, connected with Simone Rota, but the defender’s header just went narrowly wide of the far post.

For the most part of the early proceedings, Kaya’s men were able to show a bit more control of the match, while the hosts were more tentative with the possession afforded to them.

However, around 24 minutes into the match, Shan United started to come to life with some nifty plays. Two minutes later, Nanda Kyaw broke free beating the defense, but Mike Casas came up with a reflex save to deny the on-target attempt that may have been the breakthrough for the Burmese club.

In the 43rd minute, another instance raised the alarms against Kaya FC with Shan United producing another fine through ball pass, but defender Shirmar Felongco was able to to come up with a timely tackle to snuff out what could be a golden opportunity for the hosts.

Right before halftime, Kaya should have been up by a goal as a late freekick has been awarded, but what could have been a well-executed delivery from Panhay into the box found Rota who headed well, only to see the ball zip narrowly out of the near post as time expired with both teams goalless into the break.

Around five minutes after the restart, Shan United, showing a brighter start between the two sides, almost saw themselves with the lead but midfielder Yakubu Abubakar’s attempt after breaking free from Simone Rota’s defense was denied by the near post.

Minutes passed by with the match very much in the balance, as both squads saw some half-chances and opportunities, but were not able to notch the icebreaker.

In the 73rd minute a golden opportunity came in favor of the visitors when substitute substitute Arnel Amita was fouled inside Shan United’s box. Captain Jovin Bedic stepped up to take the ensuing spot kick who made no mistake to put his side in front in the next minute.

Immediately, Shan United poured their efforts chasing for an equalizer, but the Filipino side was able to weather the storm after a few nervous moments.

But five minutes before the 90th minute mark, Kaya FC suddenly provided what could have been the clincher as perennial super-sub Eric Giganto produced an unstoppable pile-driver off a feed from Arnel Amita to put the visitors two-goals up.

In the 90th minute, Louie Casas made a timely save to deny substitute Hein Phyo Win with what could have been a consolation goal for Shan United, as the match expired with Kaya FC Iloilo achieving a clean sheet to add to their two-goal haul to open their AFC Cup 2020 campaign with a massive away win in what seems to be a very tough group.

Kaya FC-Iloilo will next play in the AFC Cup as host to Singaporean side Tampines Rovers on February 26, 2020 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Photo credit: AFC

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Ceres-Negros dominate in AFC Cup 2020 opener

Ceres-Negros FC put up a convincing team performance en-route to a 4-0 win against Cambodian champions Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC in the AFC Cup 2020 group stage opener last February 11, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Visitors Svay Rieng employed a high tempo from the get-go forcing Ceres-Negros to match the same intensity. The end-to-end dynamics provided Robert Lopez Mendy with an opportunity to test the opposing goalkeeper unleashing from distance in the fourth minute, only to miss the target.

In the eighth minute, Lopez Mendy once again was given a chance this time in a much better position to shoot inside the box but his attempt was so wayward.

Right in the 13th minute, Ceres-Negros finally got the breakthrough with Takashi Odawara’s low shot from the edge of the box finding the back of the net near the far post to put the hosts in front well within the first quarter of an hour.

A minute later and it was two goals up for the busmen as another goal was scored with Josh Grommen slotting in Stephan Schrock’s delivery to put the hosts at a much better situation.

Ceres-Negros were a bit on the upper-hand for the most part until the 22nd minute when a penalty was called against the hosts as Josh Grommen has been adjudged to have committed an infraction inside the box. However, Svay Rieng failed to capitalize from the spot as Ceres keeper Roland Muller produced a fine save to deny Thiago Dos Santos and maintain the two-goal difference.

Despite the bright start for the Filipino side, Cambodian champions Svay Rieng continued to be dangerous with their pacy approach to the game, especially on the counterattack.

But the early goals proved enough as the first half concluded with the busmen firmly in control heading into the break.

Ten minutes after the restart, Ceres-Negros once again found the back of the net for the third time after a slick linkup play found Spanish striker Bienvenido Maranon at an angle who was still able to squeeze the ball past goalkeeper Aim Sovannarath.

Around the hour mark and the moments after, Svay Rieng had some good spells on their own, but with the half-chances presented to them, coach Risto Vidakovic’s men were equal to those as the breakthrough was hard to come by for the visitors.

At the stroke of the 70th minute, Maranon once again found the back of the net after a well-worked effort from OJ Porteria to carve the opening and lay-off a pass for his teammate to convert and put the tie virtually out of reach for the visitors.

Ceres-Negros will next face Vietnamese club Thanh Quang Ninh at Rizal Memorial Stadium on February 25, at 7:30 PM.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

7s football league

7’s Football League gears up for a much bigger Season 5

The AIA Philam 7’s Football League is set the green light for its biggest and most ambitious Season 5 which kicks off simultaneously in different parts of the nation on February 9.

During the presser held in the afternoon of February 6 in Makati, a total of 80 teams are vying for top honors in different competitions with 24 teams for the men’s, 10 for women’s, and 48 youth squads.

What started as a small league with only eight teams to reaching its currently much larger pool of competitors, it seems that the league is in the right direction in achieving one of its biggest motivations as to why it has come to existence in the first place.

“I saw a huge gap in the football market in the Philippines and it has been my personal advocacy to bridge this and make the sport inclusive so more people will appreciate it. Hopefully, what I’m doing sets up a good foundation in the country,” shared 7’s Football League founder and former Azkals Anton del Rosario.

That gap is slowly being addressed through the efforts of the 7’s Football League as it now has presence in different locations across the nation giving local clubs in the locality far from Metro Manila a chance to compete in an organized 7-a-side tournament.

Along with the league’s partnership with AIA Philam Life that began last year, 7’s Football League was able to further consolidate its previous expansion plans such as last season that saw it’s biggest competition pool yet with 66 teams, the women’s division, and even introducing new special tournaments such as the Philam Vitality Kampeon 7’s Cup, the All-Star tourney, and AIA global ambassador, football legend, David Beckham’s appearance and participation at the 7’s Football Youth Clinic.

“Football should be an all-inclusive sport and we’re happy that the league we’ve been supporting since last year has opened its arms wider to welcome more people to play the sport,” said Kelvin Ang, AIA Philam Life Chief Executive Officer.

Probably the most promising tournament that 7’s Football League is offering is the Youth Divisions which provides an opportunity for future talents to be developed in the competitive aspect of football which could help in identifying talents that would benefit Philippine football in the future.

7’S Football League Season 5 kicks off simultaneously in McKinley Stadium, Muntinlupa, Clark, Bacolod, and Davao on February 9, while Iloilo commence its season on February 15.

Photo credit: 7’s Football League