Newly promoted Ceres-La Salle FC beat Manila Jeepney FC 2-1 in the opening game of the UFL Season at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
UFL debutant, Martin Steuble, scored the opening goal from a corner kick in the 14th minute. The Filipino International brilliantly curled in his corner near the second post to give Ceres the advantage.
In the 29th, Orman Okuinaya made a good run into the Jeepney box to break the defense only to see his shot go wide in the end. Ceres had more shots and possession but the disciplined Jeepney defense held its own.
The Manila squad had their first crack on goal when Striker Koufi Kouassi was fouled on the edge of the box. Jahan Zabihi Taher curled in the free kick but the shot went straight to the arms of keeper Louis Michael Casas.
Minutes later, Ceres defender Camilo Tacusalme made a deep run to the opponents goal line and flicked the ball to Reichelt who then laid off to Okunaiya. The Northern Irishman took a shot with his weaker right foot which went straight to keeper Hyun Don In.
In the 40th minute, Okunaiya took a free kick near the goal line which found its way to Adrian Gallardo. Gallardo headed in his first goal which doubled Ceres’ advantage. The newly promoted Jeepney team also tried to fight back in the dying minutes but their chances were snuffed out by the Ceres defense.
The ‘Beep-Beep’ squad came out firing after the restart and they were rewarded by a fine goal in the 48th. Alvaro Alonso made no mistake when the ball was gifted to him by Kouassi. Alonso had enough time to pick a spot in the bottom corner to the delight of the fans.
Moments later, Koffi Kouassi broke free from the offside trap and found himself with a 1v1 with the Keeper. His shot however was inches wide of the post. The Manila squad again made a quick counter attack with a one-two combination between Kouassi and Alonso but the final shot was saved by the veteran Casas.
Alonso was substituted in the 70th minute on a possible injury for the Spanish player. Alonso’s exit eased the pressure on Ceres who was on the backfoot since the start of the second half.
Both teams had chances to score with Jason Sabio heading wide and Kouassi skying a 25 yard free kick. Ceres almost sealed the game when Reichelt stole a weak pass and found himself one on one with the keeper. He then passed to an open Nate Burkey who shot wide with his left foot. The game ended after Manny Ott skied a shot from the edge if the box.
Much was expected from the Ceres squad after winning the FA League Cup and the signing of Val Kama and Steuble. Their performance especially in the second half was poor as their opponents almost deservingly got an equalizer.
“I think the result we had was positive. Thats all we wanted, to have a good start, to get the three points. We achieved that so we have to get the result. But the way we played, we can always improve, but its the beginning of the season. We will work on it and for sure well have better games” said Martin Steuble.
“The Maldives game is one of the most important games of the season.
If we get to win this we get additional games in the AFC (Cup) and thats what we’re looking for and i’m sure that all the guys are all motivated and well try our best to win the game” he added.
Ceres will now set their sights on their away playoff game against Maziya S&RC of the Maldives who interestingly have the former Kaya FC player, Pedro Rodriguez, in their lineup.
If the Bus-men win the playoff match, they will play Indian side Bengaluru in India on the 24th. Their next League assignment will be against Pachanga-Diliman FC on March 1.