By Ivan Gayares (@ivangeoffrey)
Ceres-La Salle FC maintains its unbeaten record to hack out a hard-earned 3-0 win against a highly physical Stallions Squad. Adrian Gallardo Valdes top-scored for the Negros-based team with two goal and Juani Guirado contributed a slick goal himself in the dying minutes.
It wasn’t easy for Ceres as Stallion started the game hard showing physicality with some early fouls. OJ Clarino had the first crack on goal in the 5th minute after connecting to a Simone Rota free kick. In the 6th minute, Orman Okunaiya tried to catch the keeper off his line but his 30 yard shot was over the bar. A minute after, Landry Nguene breaks away to the left but his weak shot was easily collected by Casas.
Play was stopped as the lights in the grandstand area went off near the 8th minute mark. The failure seemed to have started as the rain was getting stronger with the lights tripping on cue. It took thirty minutes before the play to resume as the light were slowly returned to their original state.
The break did not stop both teams from starting strong as Ceres’ Valentine Kama had his solid header blocked by the keeper in the 11th after an Okunaiya cross. In the 17th Michael Casas punched out a Simone Rota free kick but his momentum made him hit his head on the post afterwards. Two minutes after, Rota again snuck a pass from a free kick to acutting Jordan Minta but his shot went wide of the goal. Ceres had another chance with a strike from Kama but it went straight to the keeper.
Stallion again reasserted themselves with intense physicality providing a hard number of fouls in the half hour mark. In the 32nd minute, Christian Nana was called for a trip on Patrick Reichelt with referee Wally Bermejo pulling out his yellow card from his pocket. Team Captain Reuben Doctora came on the defense of his player as another yellow would mean the sending off of Nana. The incident triggered a discussion between the referee and the linesman and Bermejo returned the card to his pocket to the disappointment of the Ceres bench.
The Gilligans-backed squad had a great chance when Nguene provided a dangerous cross to a streaking Doctora but the chance was cleared by the keeper. The deadlock was broken 3 minutes from halftime when an Okuinaya free kick from the side was headed in by Adrian Gallardo. The Spanish player found himself alone in the far post and easily headed the ball past Henri Bandeken Fong. The half ended with a 1-0 scoreline in favor of Ceres.
Ceres made a defensive display in the first five minutes of the second half after snuffing all equalizing attempts from Stallion. The Bacolod-based squad then found offense on its own as they created plenty of chances just before the hour Mark. Martin Steuble provided a cross to Kyum Son Cho but Cho’s header went wide in the 54th. A minute after, Marvin Angeles found Gallardo Valdes alone in the middle of the box but the Spaniards well-placed shot bounced off the post.
Member’s of the UAAP Finalist De La Salle Green Booters who supported their senior teammates playing in the Sunday matches
Both teams got into a passing groove in the 65th minute with great build up plays only to be spoiled good defensive coverage from both teams. Ceres had plenty of half chances with a Cho header and a karate volley from Manny Ott in the 71st and 73rd minute respectively but both shots went wide. Simone Rota also had a good shot from the top of the box but it was blocked by Valentine Kama.
In the 77th minute, Gallardo Valdes got a long ball, which was generated by a good defensive work by his defenders, and provided a through pass to a cutting Patrick Reichelt. Reichelt found himself one-on-one with the keeper but his shot was blocked by Bandeken Fong. The Azkal player recovered the blocked shot and laid off to Okunaiya who then finds Gallardo Valdes in the middle and pokes the ball past the keepers reach to secure the two goal advantage for Ceres.
Ceres’ Michael Casas had a flurry of saves in the last ten minutes including one from Nathan Alquiros to secure a clean sheet for his team. The busmen made the score 3-0 when Juani Guirado flicked the ball with the back of his head to the surprise of the Stallion keeper. A penalty was awarded to Stallion in the final minute of injury time as Balot Doctora was seen rolling into the box. The call was however changed when the linesman clarified that the foul was incurred outside the box. The resulting free kick from Rota was blocked by the Ceres wall with the final whistle blown shortly after.
Tempers flared agter the game when an exchange of words between two players. A member of the Stallion coaching staff had to be restrained after jawing the opposing player. Cooler heads prevailed and the issue was immediately resolved after the match.
“Stallion had their game plan I think they followed it but god willing we scored the goals that we needed but it was a hard game for us. All in all I think we performed well” said Ceres Coach Ali Go. “The referee did not control anything. He did everything wrong but thats the way it is. There’s referees, you have to play with it and good thing we won the game” he added.
It was the fifth win in as many games for Ceres and their second against a title contender which moved them to third in the league. They are still the favorites to finish the first round on top of the table because of their unbeaten streak and having two more games to play than the current leaders. Stallion meanwhile have dropped to fourth place with their second loss of the season.
Ceres will play Green Archers United on April 7 while Stallion will face Kaya FC on April 12. The Ceres-Team Socceroo match was moved to April 21 from the original March 31 play date.