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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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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 Marañon’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 Schröck (MF, Ceres-Negros: 1 ASSIST)

The AFC Cup 2019 assists leader, Ceres captain Stephan Schröck 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 Schröck’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 Marañon 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 Marañon (FW, Ceres-Negros FC: 2 GOALS)

Ceres-Negros’ prolific Spanish forward, Bienve Marañon, 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 Marañon’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 Schröck, 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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HISTORY! Invincibles Ceres snatch Copa Alcantara to complete perfect season

Goals from Robert Lopez Mendy and Tristan Kit Robles were enough, despite a late Kenshiro Daniels goal for Kaya, as Ceres-Negros snatch the crown and win 2-1 in the final for an unprecedented double in the 2019 edition of the Copa Paulino Alcantara that was held last November 16 in Binan Laguna.

Right after kickoff, Ceres-Negros immediately tried to employ a high-pressure approach with Senegalese striker Robert Lopez Mendy even finding the back of the net in the fourth minute, only to be ruled offside.

Kaya meanwhile were caught on their back-heels, defending in numbers, with a fifth minute corner by the busmen’s holding midfielder Miguel Tanton successfully finding Japanese enforcer Takashi Odawara who headed just wide.

Ceres continued to pile up some promising chances against their opponents as the defending cup holders looked disjointed in the early proceedings.

In the 11th minute, Roland Muller landed awkwardly after colliding with fellow busman Dennis Villanueva while saving a threatening ball from Kaya  that put a brief stoppage in the proceedings, but the net-minder turned out to be alright.

A free-kick by Kaya in the 18th minute came begging but ultimately came to naught as the play was easily dealt with by the Ceres-Negros defense.

A chance for the Bacolod-based club arrived in the 20th minute with Junior Munoz, operating from the right flank, unleashing Robert Lopez Mendy who fired from range only for keeper Michael Casas to parry the effort and snuff out the threat.

But Kaya were awarded a freekick in a very promising position, just outside Ceres’ penalty box, a few moments later. However, Kenshiro Daniels’ attempt went just wide of the near post.

Michael Casas once again was called to action for Kaya in the 27th minute when a dangerous ball went deceivingly near his goal.

In the 28th minute, Jovin Bedic had a golden opportunity for Kaya with only Roland Muller to beat, but his shot was deflected by the Ceres goalkeeper away from goal.

And just at the stroke of the half hour mark, Ceres-Negros produced the icebreaker off a stunning counter-attacking move, with James Younghusband providing the dangerous cross at speed towards an onrushing Robert Mendy who dispatched the ball into Kaya’s net without any hint of doubt at point-blank range.

Kaya immediately tried to respond within the next minute, with the ball finding Jayson Panhay but the winger’s effort was way high over the bar to even worry Muller at goal.

Coach Noel Marcaida’s men continued to search for an equalizer coming close once again in the 35th minute with Daniels firing wide from a considerable distance after receiving a well-worked ball from Ghanaian midfielder Alfred Osei.

Kaya continued to be unrelenting, with Panhay firing from an angle inside the box within the next minute, but his shot was well handled by Ceres captain, Muller.

In the 41st minute the busmen once again got into high-gear producing another chance with James Younghusband’s cross from the right wing just missing Mendy.

Kaya almost got an answer from an ensuing play, with Jordan Mintah unleashing a shot that flew narrowly off-target as the first half eventually came to an end after a minute of added time with the three-peat league champions enjoying a slim 1-0 lead.

After the restart, Ceres-Negros continued where they left off showing more impetus and verve in their plays and seemingly enjoying their role as underdogs in the final. 

With the situation obviously not favoring Kaya, Coach Noel Marcaida was forced to make an early change with Connor Tacagni replacing Panhay to provide more presence and industry up front.

In the 58th minute Kaya showed a glimpse of the promise they can conjure in their attack but a deceiving cross failed to find Kenshiro Daniels who could have headed the ball at speed.

In the 63rd minute, a freekick from Daniels from the right midfield found Darryl Roberts who just cannot direct the ball on-target with his header.

In the 67th minute Kaya had best chance to equalize off a set piece with Masanari Omura connecting with Daniels’ freekick only for the ball to shave the far post and bounce out of danger as Ceres got a fortunate break.

The defending champions will immediately rue that gilt-edged opportunity as right in the next play, Ceres doubled their lead with Tristan Kit Robles putting himself in the scoresheet by burying the chance off a well crafted lay-off from Mendy.

The Iloilo-based squad pushed forth to get themselves a goal with Bedic producing an effort that was easily dealt with 30 minutes after the restart while a venomous header from Tacagni forced Muller to an acrobatic save but still a breakthrough still did not arrive.

Tense moments followed for Ceres, as Kaya came close thrice near the 80th minute mark, but the league champions were let off the hook in all of those three.

James Younghusband who was on a receiving end of a collision moments ago was replaced by Charles Ivan Barberan.

Younghusband’s absence may have unsettled the balance in Ceres as five minutes before the 90th minute mark, Kaya finally scored a goal with Kenshiro Daniels putting his team back in the game.

Kaya continued to knock into Ceres’ defense with Daniels proving to be an inspiration for his team late in the match with an 87th minute freekick hitting the crossbar.

A nervy end to the match with four minutes of added time proved to be a nail-biter with the league invincibles defending with their dear lives, but the equalizer failed to arrive as Ceres-Neros achieved an unprecedented double in Philippine Football’s professional era going unbeaten for the whole 2019 domestic campaign.

A much tougher Copa Alcantara in 2020?

The Copa Paulino Alcantara serves as country’s counterpart to the FA Cup and is under the auspices of the Philippine Football Federation with the Philippines Football League commissioned to lead the organization of the tournament.

Unlike a “league cup” competition where the tournament is limited only to participants of the top-flight and, to an extent, the second division in other countries, the FA Cup is actually a knockout battle royale of all professional clubs and the PFL is planning to apply that essence in the next Copa Alcantara edition.

Given that the PFL is the only league made up of fully professional clubs, it is being mulled by PFL Commissioner Coco Torre to open the Copa to semi-professional teams and clubs pending certain requirements from the organizers.

If the expansion of the cup to non-PFL clubs pushes through for the 2020 edition, it would mean that it will be a much tougher road for the participating clubs to win the cup.

Photo credit: Philippines Football League Facebook Page

Copa Paulino Alcantara Final Kaya vs Ceres

Copa Alcantara: Ceres ‘Invincibles’ battle holders Kaya for PH football supremacy

Ceres-Negros and Kaya FC Iloilo secured their tickets to the Copa Paulino Alcantara final, and along with the mouthwatering face-off for the silverware, a much bigger implication is at stake that deals on the power-play in the early phase of Philippine football’s professional era.

Three-time consecutive Philippines Football League (PFL) champions Ceres were able to squeeze through a seven-goal thriller semifinal match against a spirited Stallion Laguna side by getting a 4-3 win in Binan Football Stadium last November 10.

In the other semifinal, which kicked-off simultaneously, Kaya successfully mounted a late push in the second half to get a 3-0 result and deny Mendiola FC 1991 any glimmer of hope of reaching the final for a shot at winning the cup.

The results from both matches rendered the qualification for a second AFC Cup spot a foregone conclusion with Kaya already filling the void being the 2019 PFL runners-up.

However, with both sides meeting in the Copa Paulino Alcantara decider, a bigger underlying battle for supremacy is at stake aside from just winning the coveted trophy, as the cup could now be considered more as a stamp of dominance in Philippine top-flight football.

Ceres-Negros’ push for domestic immortality

League champions Ceres-Negros won the league in very convincing fashion by not suffering a single loss. Such a feat earned them the Invincibles tag for the entire 2019 PFL campaign.

But a rampant performance in the course of the busmen’s cup campaign, save for their lackluster opening draw against Mendiola, made Ceres one of the clear favourites to win the second edition of the domestic cup.

If Coach Risto Vidakovic’s men are able to win against Kaya on November 16, the Bacolod-based club will now be the first ever winners of the domestic double, completing a sweep of the trophies that Philippine football has on offer at the highest level.

What will make the feat even more remarkable, if attained, is Ceres’ invincibility tag will then be for the entire 2019 season which will be an undefeated run that spans both the league and cup campaigns – something that might never be replicated for, at least, several years.

Kaya FC’s march towards destiny

Kaya FC Iloilo meanwhile are set to defend their title with only one hurdle left standing their way, the formidable Ceres fleet.

After achieving a dream start in the cup tournament with the 5-0 dismantling of Philippine Air Force, Coach Noel Marcaida’s men were pushed to the limit against Stallion Laguna in their final Group B fixture last November 6 with a 1-1 draw, as both teams tussled to seize top seeding which Kaya were able to hold on to.

However, the semifinal win against a hungry Mendiola squad proved that Kaya are legitimate defenders of the cup that they were able to win last year in thrilling fashion.

Come the final, if Kaya are able to take their chances and end up victorious, it would halt their close rivals, Ceres-Negros’ plans to achieve something exclusively rare, while they themselves will seize a historic back-to-back Copa Alcantara titles that could pave the way for them to a legitimate claim as the “Cup Kings” of Philippine Football, with the two of the biggest trophies once again split between the fierce rivals.

A true test of depth for The Invincibles

The final won’t be a walk in the park though for either side, as both squads’ mettles will be tested.

But a much tougher proposition hangs on Ceres-Negros as it is believed that several of their key players are already heading to the Azkals’ camp immediately after the recently concluded semifinal match in preparation for the World Cup qualifying match away against Maldives which will be on November 14.

Though Ceres’ squad is no doubt very deep, if full-force, the fact that five more players might not be available for the final against Kaya will be a true test of the busmen’s bench.

The Final of the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara is set on Saturday, November 16 in Binan Football Stadium.

Follow the Philippines Football League Facebook page for more info

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Azkals U22 show promise after win in Copa Alcantara opener

The Philippines Under-22 team achieves a positive start in the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara after getting a slim but important 1-0 result against Green Archers United in Aboitiz Pitch last October 27.

Assembling its most formidable squad yet, The Azkals management released the list in the morning of matchday which showed a good balance of collegiate standouts and professionals both based locally and abroad.

Meanwhile, right before kickoff, Green Archers fielded a capable starting 11 that has been their staple during their impressive league debut to face against a national squad lineup brimming with talent.

As the opening whistle was blown, the Under-22 side were able to enjoy most of the possession in the early proceedings. However, Green Archers produced the closest breakthrough when John Celiz hit the crossbar in only the eighth minute of the match through a counterattack.

The Young Azkals eventually had their first promising chance of the match when Chima Uzoka almost put his side in front only to see his effort go wide of the left post.

Green Archers eventually settled into the match and found their rhythm as well to produce their own spell of ball possession and building some counterattacking plays.

Paolo Bugas saw his freekick for the Archers go over the bar in the 31st minute while Uzoka saw another attempt go agonizingly wide of the far post in the 34th minute as the dynamics of the match went back and forth a bit for both competing teams.

Late in the half, Jarvey Gayoso and Jimuel Ariola had chances for the Philippines and Green Archers respectively through set-pieces, but the opening goal did not arrive as both teams headed into the break in a deadlock.

Five minutes after the restart, the Philippine team eventually got the much needed breakthrough when Chima Uzoka rose highest to meet Jerome Marzan’s corner kick with a header which went past Henri Bandeken’s outstretched arms.

The lead added a momentary boost to Azkals U22 as another headed effort, this time, from Yrick Gallantes almost got in, only to be denied by the right post.

Green Archers had chances to restore parity with an inspired Jimuel Ariola creating chances but debuting goalkeeper and team captain Anthony Pinthus did well with his custodian duties.

A late shuffle by coach Joel Villarino, opting for an all-out attack, came up empty handed as Pinthus pulled off at least two timely saves late in the match to earn the Young Azkals a positive start to their cup campaign.

Jarvey Gayoso had two late attempts that could have doubled the lead of the national team but Bandeken Fong did well to deny the effort as the clash ended in a 1-0 win for the Philippines U22.

Holders ran riot, Invincibles held

Saturday’s opening fixtures saw a bit of contrasting fortunes for the Philippines’ top two clubs with cup holders Kaya starting their title defense with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Air Force.

Jayson Panhay (29′), Connor Tacagni (37′) and Marwin Angeles (69′) each found the back of the net once while Kenshiro Daniels (33′, 62′) scored a brace to put Coach Noel Marcaida’s men to an early comfortable lead in Group B.

Meanwhile, newly-crowned undefeated 2019 league champions Ceres-Negros squandered a two-goal cushion to end up with a 2-2 draw against a resilient Mendiola FC side.

Robert Mendy’s first-half brace (4′, 31′) were eventually cancelled out as Hamed Hadjimehdi (45+1′) and Papuh Corsame (64′) provided the much needed response for both teams to end up sharing the spoils.

Despite the disappointing draw, Ceres still maintains an undefeated 2019 domestic season and are still in the running. Mendiola meanwhile definitely gets a massive boost with the way they unearthed a result against a firm favorite to reach at least a semifinal spot.

From a neutral standpoint, the draw sets up a possibly interesting scenario for the teams involved when it comes to surviving out of Group A and into the cup semis.

Photo credit: The Azkals

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Titleholders Ceres, Kaya see action in 2019 Copa Alcantara opener

Fresh from achieving an undefeated campaign en-route to an unprecedented three-peat, PFL champions Ceres-Negros face Mendiola FC while Kaya FC Iloilo begin their title defence against Air Force in the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara on Saturday, October 25 and October 26.

Can it be double-delight for the Busmen?

Ceres-Negros’ already milestone-laden campaign could be further consolidated if they can win the Copa, in addition to the league trophy, for a domestic “double” that has never been achieved before at least in the professional era of Philippine football.

However, The Busmen‘s first assignment could prove to be a challenging one as they are up against a promising Mendiola FC 1991 side which were able to acquire reinforcements in key positions during the midseason transfer window.

A lacklustre and inconsistent campaign from Coach Dan Padernal’s men in the league could be enough motivation for a much improved performance as they try to claim the scalp of the much celebrated and trailblazing Ceres 11.

Back-to-back cups beckon for Kaya

Defending cup champions Kaya FC Iloilo are looking to repeat their triumph in the Copa Paulino Alcantara to maintain their AFC Cup participation and and set an early claim to be the Philippines’ Cup Kings.

After failing to unseat what proved to be a mightier Ceres side in the 2019 edition of the league, Coach Noel Marcaida and his wards will definitely go all-out to come up with their second silverware in the professional era in Philippine football.

Kaya’s opener might proved to be a tricky one though as they face a seemingly manageable Air Force squad, but Head Coach Leo Jaena and the rest of his Airmen will use the one-off nature of the cup as an opportunity for a monumental giant-killing.

Azkals U22 debut against dangerous Archers

The nation’s representatives in the upcoming 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which will be hosted in Manila will finally begin the most crucial part of their preparations for the biennial games as they’re set to face a stern test against Green Archers United, competing as guests in the Copa Alcantara.

2018 Weekend Futbol League champions, Archers, proved that they belong in Philippine football’s top-tier after finishing fourth out of the seven-team PFL in the 2019 season with positive win-loss and goal difference records, making them the undisputed best performing debutants.

All eyes will most likely be on this fixture as a rare matchup between a national team and a progressive club showing strong signs of possible ascendancy will definitely spark the interest of any football fan.

The 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara opens this weekend with Kaya vs Air Force happening on Saturday October 26 at 4PM followed by Ceres vs Mendiola at 7PM. Green Archers United vs Philippines U22 will be on Sunday, October 27 at 4PM. All matches will be hosted in Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa, Batangas.

Photo credit: Philippines Football League

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Young Azkals’ participation highlights upcoming 2019 Copa Alcantara

In-line with the preparation for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila, the Philippines U22 squad, the Young Azkals, are set to test themselves against the best clubs in the country as they embark on the 2019 edition of the Copa Paulino Alcantara starting this late October.

As a guest team during the draw for the group stage of the Philippines’ domestic cup tournament last October 20 at the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) House of Football in Pasig, the U22 has been assigned under Group A along with 2019 Philippines Football League (PFL) champion Ceres-Negros FC, Mendiola FC 1991, and Green Archers United.

Meanwhile, Group B is comprised of three teams with defending Copa Paulino Alcantara champion Kaya FC Iloilo, Philippine Air Force, and Stallion Laguna FC.

Competition Format

As discussed by PFL Commissioner Coco Torre, the seven teams will compete within their respective groups during the group/elimination stage where all matches will be in knockout format. The semifinals and final will also be one off fixtures without applying the away goals rule.

The winning team, with the exception of the Philippine U22 squad, will represent the Philippines in the 2020 AFC Cup. If the Young Azkals manage to win, the cup runners-up will be the ones to be nominated to the AFC Cup.

But if PFL champions Ceres-Negros, happen to win the tournament, the second-placer of the league will be the one to be nominated for next year’s AFC Cup competition.

All nominations to the AFC Cup will still be subject to the AFC’s club licensing regulations.

Young Azkals aim high

The Philippine U22 are anticipating at the proposition of testing their mettle against the very best in domestic professional club football scene. Such an opportunity has been further emphasized by their grouping with undefeated PFL 2019 champions and perennial AFC Cup competitors Ceres-Negros.

Azkals Team Manager, Dan Palami, who is also managing the Young Azkals is using the competition in preparation for the 2019 Southeast Asian [SEA] Games which will be held in and around Metro Manila beginning late November, has expressed that the team will compete for honors, despite not being eligible for the AFC Cup if they win it all.

“I’d like to think that we have a good chance dito sa Copa. While even if we become champions, it does not give us a slot in the AFC Cup, but [winning the competition] is what we are aiming for.”

In addition to the serious steps being taken by the national team for the SEA Games, some of the overseas-based young players already have given their full commitment to the squad by taking a significant leave of absence from their respective clubs just to focus on training with the squad.

Players like Elias Edison Suerti Mordal took a leave from Norwegian club Brattvag, and Switzerland-based Anthony Pinthus of FC Kosova is training with the squad until the conclusion of the SEA Games.

The 20 U22 players who will compete in the Copa Alcantara are the ones already in the shortlist for the SEA Games football tournament and might be the ones who will make the final list for the regional biennial tournament.

The Copa Paulino Alcantara kicks off on October 26 until November 16.

Photo credit: The Azkals