By Ivan Gayares (@ivangeoffrey)
Ceres-La Salle FC scored a 2-0 win against a tough Kaya squad to move one point away from the League title.
The game was as good as advertised as both teams were out to get a result. Kaya threatened first with a 20-yard rocket of a free kick from Chris Greatwich in the 6th minute which went over the bar. Ceres also tried five minutes after when a hastily taken free kick found it’s way to Gallardo who found himself one on one with Kaya keeper Nick O’donnel. Gallardo blasted one towards the goal but the young keeper came up with a great reaction save.
In the 14th minute, Kaya’s Christian Ayew tried his luck from top of the box but Casas easily collected the shot. It was a chess match in the first twenty as both defenses did not allow any passes through the final third.
Ceres were dangerous in the 21st when Martin Steuble snuck in a free kick to Marañon who blasted his shot wide. Kaya returned the favor a minute after when Ayew layed off to Greatwich whose shot was took a deflection went inches wide of the top corner.
OJ Porteria fired a shot which was again deflected dangerously toward goal in the 24th but Casas was there to provide a superb save. It was an open game for both teams as they heavily relied on counter attacks to overcome the defenses of both squads.
The opening goal came in the 39th minute when Patrick Reichelt did a beautiful turn to beat his man on the right flank. He then pushed the ball up till the goal line when he released a cross towards a rushing Jeong Woo Lee. Lee smartly let the ball through his legs drawing the defense to him and allowing Marañon to poke the ball just enough to get past the goal line for the. The half ended with Ceres leading 1-0.
The Bacolod-based squad were dangerous early in the second half when they got back to back chances in the 51st minute. Patrick Reichelt snuck in a cross to a rushing Gallardo but O’donnel was there to snuff out the chance, Moments later, Lee broke away from the left flank only to shoot over the goal.
It was eight minutes later when Manu Ott got the ball from the middle and made a solo run towards the Kaya half. He then flicked the ball towards the direction of Gallardo who was marked by Kaya Captain Masa Omura. Omura tried to clear the ball which glanced off his head towards Gallardo who had enough space to pick his spot and beat O’donnel for the second Ceres goal.
Kaya had a golden chance to score on a one-on-one a minute later but Porteria’s shot went wide of the second post. Porteria again had a chance in the 68th but his six-yard shot was equalled by a super save from Casas.
The LBC-backed squad put in substitutes in Joven Bedic and Diego Barrera to revitalize their attack which then paid dividends when Barrera hit a curling shot towards the goal. The ball spun out of Casas hands but the veteran immediately collected the ball over his shoulder.
Kaya produced chances at the end of injury time but were again denied by a Michael Casas reaction save and a goal-line clearance from Orman Okunaiya. The match ended 2-0 with Ceres getting the valuable three points to push their lead to 9 points over global with three games at hand. Kaya are 12 points behind with four games to play.
The game then became a card-fest after successive fouls from the opposing teams. This was highlighted when Barrera clipped Steuble after losing the ball which made the Azkal furious. Both players seemed to be in the Christmas Spirit as they gave each other extra-physical plays and sweet nothings until Steuble was substituted because of injury. The match ended with a total of 9 yellow cards given to both teams.
The match saw an inspired defensive performance from the Ceres backline to deliver the much coveted win against Kaya. Jason Sabio, Sang Min Kim, Juan Guirado, and Yong Chan “Victorino” Son performed very well against a very quick Kaya squad.
Michael Casas delivered another superb performance deserving of another call-up with the Azkals. Kaya had eight shots on target compared to Ceres’ five but Casas and his timely saves proved to be the difference.