Pasargad, Socceroo draw in battle for survival

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Every year in Europe this scene is repeated: fans wildly invading a pitch upon at the final whistle, players whooping it up, and wild pandemonium all over town.

Is this when a team wins a title? Not really. Check the electronic scoreboard and it will likely have this message: “We’re Staying Up!”

In Europe and in many other footballing nations, there is a system of relegation and promotion to allow teams to go up to higher levels of competition or drop down if they stumble. And relegation battles between sides in the bottom of the table are as hotly contested as those gunning for a title shot. Some say even more fiercely so.

The motivation to avoid relegation to a lower tier (there are 24 tiers in the English system) is not just pride. Lower leagues have less TV revenue and less opportunities for lucrative sponsorship. Demotion could mean millions in lost revenue for the club.

On Tuesday the UFL’s divison one cellar-dweller Pasargad met second-to-the-last place  Team Socceroo. After this league, only one team will drop down. Not surprisingly, it was a hard-fought contest that ended 1-1. It was a cracking match that shows just how entertaining the UFL’s lesser lights can be.

Pasargad, winners of just one game all season long, struck first with a Jerome Cuyos lob off a clearance from the keeper. Gui Hasegawa got stranded in no-man’s land on the goal and deserves as much blame as the hesitant defending on the play. TS equalled from the penalty spot in the second half.

There was plenty of drama, with Pasargad furious at a non-penalty call in the second when a TS defender caught one of their players on the face in the box with his boot, and again when keeper Amie N’Sangou was red carded for a stamp on Diego Barrera.

Replays showed the red card was harsh, since the contact, off a volley kick outside the box, was not malicious. TS also went a man down when Park Yi Young was dismissed, allegedly for a second motion.

It was a welcome result for Pasargad on the debut of new coach Myk Agbayani. His side are now on five points from fifteen games. They have two games in hand on Socceroo, who are on ten points after seventeen matches. Pasargad could think it has a winnable game next, against Pachanga PLDT Home Fibr, the only team they beat all season long.

I was impressed with Agbayani’s new recruit Michael Ebare, from just outside Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. He plays for Agbayani in Emilio Aguinaldo College and shows good ball-handling skills and terrific speed. He nearly scored on a breakaway.

N’Sangou was also superb, coming out of his area three times perfectly to clean up balls in the second half. His style reminds me of the similarly adventurous  Mark Sorongon of Kaya. The Cameroonian is a big improvement over Jeffrey Albon, who must now start the next game as N’Sangou serves his suspension.

TS have great attacking players in Barrera, Park and Lee. Hasegawa is a proven keeper. The rest of the side is lacking in experience, but that’s why you gotta love TS. Coach Kleng Cacacho is giving kids like Enzo Bonoan, Mauricio De Leon, Dexter Chio, Filsan Akut, Douglas McArtor, ( a Fil-am who is just 17 years old)  and Enzo Pinga lots of playing time, which is hugely important for their development.

Global looks poised to run away with the title race. But even if that happens the UFL might have the next best thing on the other side of the table:  a hard-fought struggle to remain in the top flight.

 

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