UFL: Fighting Kaya keeping title race alive

 

Anton Del Rosario spars with Pachanga players.

Anton Del Rosario spars with Pachanga players.

 

Kaya kept  their flickering title hopes alive on Sunday with a well-deserved comeback 2-1 win versus Pachanga PLDT Home Fibr. After Yoon Hang Jo headed in Pachanga’s opener early in the second half, Anton Del Rosario and Chris Greatwich followed up with late scores.

In a sense Football is a 90 minute exercise in crossing your “t’s” and dotting your “i’s.” Pachanga let this one slip away by forgetting some basics in a hotly contested match.

Up 1-0 Jinggoy Valmayor got the ball on a long looping pass from the other half of the pitch and found Nate Burkey alone in the box. But the Azkal did not shoot it quickly enough, instead taking a few more touches. That allowed Drew Liauw to race in and neutralize the chance.

Then minutes later PLDT Home Fibr’s goalie, Steve Yambou, took longer than the allotted six seconds to clear a ball. Off the resulting indirect free kick, Del Rosario scored.

Pachanga’s Alu Kigbu was then tossed for a second yellow. His team mates bitterly contested the call, saying the contact was not intentional.

It went downhill for Noel Marcaida’s side after that. Kaya had the momentum and a minute before time Chris Greatwich slipped in the ball off an acute angle after receiving a great assist from by-now legendary Kaya Super Sub, Janrick Soriano.

If Pachanga remembers fundamentals like shooting early, follows basic rules, and steers as clear away from trouble as they can when on a yellow,  they get at least a draw. Instead they drop points and add just a little bit more drama to the title chase.

Global is atop the table at 47 points and 19 games. Loyola, after 20 games, is at 40. Kaya is at 19 games and is also at 40 points. There are 24 games in this triple round-robin season. You do the math. It’s Global’s to lose, but Kaya still has an outside shot.

But Sunday was a bit of a pyrrhic victory for David Perkovic’s men. Masanari Omura hurt his leg and had to leave the stadium mid game. The bigger problem was holding mid Richard Greer, who seemed to do his knee in very badly and had to be stretchered off. Afterwards it was revealed to be a torn ACL. He’s out at least seven months.

And it gets worse. Pablo Rodriguez Aracil, Kaya’s  highly-skilled Spanish striker, hurt his arm and was also substituted in the first half. Perkovic will have to try and match Global with a very depleted side. At least he finally has Aly Borromeo back. The former Azkal captain got in a good shift in the second half.

One thing that must be said about Pachanga: they, more than any other team in the UFL top tier, are giving young Pinoy defenders very good experience at this level. Marcaida started Deo Segunial at centerback (Andrew Santiago wasn’t fit to play,) along side Jed Rances. At left back was Jayson Cutamora. Starting at right back was UP sophomore Patxi Santos, who gave way for another very gifted youngster, Raffy Cabug of San Beda.

Conventional wisdom in the UFL seems to suggest that you first burn your foreigner slots at centerback, and then allocate Pinoys elsewhere. PLDT Home Fibr does the opposite. It’s a refreshing contrarian approach that works quite well. I was especially impressed with Rances, who is undersized for CB but tidied up well. Segunial, with a few nervous moments, had a mixed night.

But the night belonged to Kaya. They now have the best shot at denying Global after Loyola failed to beat GAU the night earlier. It’s a mountain to climb for Perkovic’s lads, but with five games to go, you know they will go all out for precious wins.

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