Ceres 4, Pachanga Diliman 0.
Adrian Gallardo Valdes just might be the next Rufo Sanchez.
Gallardo (the name he wears on his shirt) struck twice as Ceres bounced PD 4-0 in the first day of play of the UFL League Cup on Saturday in Rizal Memorial.
The technical quality of his finishing was magnificent. In the first half Gallardo retrieved a loose ball that PD keeper Ace Villanueva Manuel Neuer-ed out of his box. The Spaniard gathered the ball then smacked it home with aplomb. In Gallardo’s second-half goal he collected a diagonal pass then faced PD keeper Ace Villanueva in a 1v1 from the right side. Ace was positioned well, narrowing the angle without committing. But Gallardo speared it into the right top corner, and the ball glanced in off the crossbar.
Both first half goals came within a minute or two of one another. Orman Okunaiya was a surprise sub for Jayson Panhay, who was doing well I thought, having just forced a save from Villanueva. But the Irish-Nigerian scored moments after coming in. He picked up the ball on the left flank off a Patrick Reichelt dummy, then slotted it between the legs of Villanueva.
The two Ceres first half goals had a similar genesis: giveaways in the midfield, the first from Hamid Hajimedhi and the second from Behrouz Khozshgavar. Ceres was blindingly quick in transitioning from defense to offense, and Pachanga could not cope.
Reichelt added a late goal to make it 4-0, a strike the Pachanga players felt was offside.
Pachanga’s new signing park Yi Young played centerback, not his favored position, alongside Khosro Siamazgi. PD obviously missed the presence of Andrew Santiago, who dressed for the game but was hurt and didn’t play.
It wasn’t all bad news for PD. Villanueva sparkled on a busy evening, stoning Gallardo twice, making a few other good saves and showing good judgment in leaving his box. The top keeper of UAAP Season 76 (he plays for UP) is developing very nicely indeed, and is turning out to be a fine replacement for Kim Versales, now with Green Archers.
Daniel Gadia very nearly beat Ceres keeper Michael Louie Casas with a long 35 -yard bomb in the first half that rattled the crossbar.
Paolo Salenga and Lee Jeong Woo, Pachanga’s other new Korean player, were introduced late but failed to get on the scoresheet.
But it’s Ceres who makes the statement in this game. They are torridly quick and fit, play an attractive pass-and-move brand of football, and are very deep. Nate Burkey and Jeff Christiaens both sat out, presumably injured. Jason Sabio and Ed Sacapaño are waiting in the wings in the event of injuries.
Props to Manny Ott who was a handful in attacking mid. Another player of note: Ceres CB Kim Sang Min, a towering centerback who reminds me of Per Mertesacker.
This is a team built to win.
Manila Jeepney 2, Green Archers United Globe 2.
Jahanbahksh Taher scored one of the prettiest goals of the year in second-half stoppage time on Saturday.
From an extreme angle very near the sideline he volleyed in a long free kick from PJ Fadirgalan. The ball looped over GAU netminder Paolo Pascual and into the far corner. It was a ridiculous strike that he won’t be able to replicate in a hundred tries I think.
The kick leveled the match at 2-2.
Koffi Kouassi started the scoring with an early strike that was negated by Robert Lopez Mendy’s header off a gorgeous cross from Dodong Villareal. Jhan Jhan Melliza put the Archers ahead in the second half with a superb finish but Taher’s heroics meant the points were shared.
This is a tough result for GAU, who really wanted the win after their request to reschedule this game was denied. United has five players playing for the Muzangs national futsal team, namely Jovan Simpron, Boyet Cañedo, Tating Pasilan, Pat Bocobo, and Kim Versales, in the AFF championship in Kuala Lumpur. GAU team manager Monchu Garcia says not even a PFF letter was enough to delay the game.
GAU must have felt that getting points in the murderer’s row that is Group A of the League Cup is going to be tough. This was a chance to grab three, and two of them slithered away with seconds to spare.
Villareal was a mixed bag for GAU. Aside from the good cross that set up Mendy he also showed naivete in a silly gamble on a tackle in the first half and also gave the ball away once or twice. If he can excise these errors from his game, he could be Azkals material.
GAU were also missing Boiboi Fernandez. The centerback supposedly was on emergency leave with a family matter. But Jeepney also had an issue on defense: with regular keeper Ref Cuaresma in the VIP lounge watching the game as part of the PFF “B” coaching license class, it was up to Michael Menzi to play keep and he did well. Menzi plays for FEU.
Paolo Pascual, GAU’s new gloveman, also impressed. He blanked Eric Giganto in a 1v1 in the first half and also parried away a long-range attempt by Kouassi in the second half. Pascual is finally getting the playing time he deserves but hardly ever got in Global.
Another member of the beep-beep crew also shone: Arnel Amita. The diminutive Tamaraw wowed the crowd with his ball control but also hit the woodwork twice, once with his weaker left foot and again in the second half off a free kick.
There was a bizarre ending to the game as Mikko Mabanag was red carded for Jeepney. Mabanag was on the bench and supposedly, while celebrating the Taher goal, wagged his index finger in the air horizontally, hip-hop style while curling the other three fingers under it. Referee Ariel Montaña saw a middle finger instead of an index finger, and displayed a red card. Mabanag and the ref jawed at each other after the dismissal, and the ref even waved goodbye at the Atenean as he walked off.
“Why would I show a middle finger while celebrating a goal?” said a baffled Mabanag afterwards.
Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.
Special congratulations to Fitch Arboleda who scored the only goal in Stallions’ win over Army in Saturday’s first encounter.