|Kaya keeps title hopes alive; Stallion seals 4th
Kaya kept its title hopes alive with a tough 2-1 win over Pasargad Thursday night, even as Stallion FC sealed fourth place in the United Football League at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Goals from skipper Aly Borromeo and French midfielder Adrian Semblat sealed the win for Kaya, which needed to hold off a determined stand from Pasargad in the second half.
Mohamed Ohadi pulled a goal back six minutes into the second half, setting the stage for a nervy finish. But Kaya survived wave after wave of attack in the second half and regained top spot with a game in hand. It marked the second time in three days that the UFL had a new leader, after Global went top with a 3-1 win over Stallion Tuesday night.
Stallion made sure it finished in fourth spot in its first season in the league with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Army Fritz and Macziol.
Lee Joo Young, Byeong Jun Yoon and Ruben Doctora all found the back of the net inside the first 22 minutes as Stallion jacked up its tally to 28 points with two games remaining.
Kaya entered the game, knowing it had a better chance of winning the title now, after Loyola Meralco’s slip-up against Air Force Wednesday night.
But Pasargad has proven to be the surprise package in the second half of the season as they went into the game, winning four of their last six matches.
Kale Alvarez’s side missed the services of defender Jason Sabio and midfielder Masa Omura, who has effectively deputized at centerback in recent matches.
Borromeo was inserted into the lineup for his first start since October last year, while Nico Bolzico also returned to the starting lineup to pair up with the skipper in the middle of defense.
Nate Burkey caused problems with his workrate, getting into dangerous areas and also crafting a series of chances. Burkey had a left-footed effort wide after racing past the Pasargad defense, before sending another shot from close range over.
Pasargad was dealt a blow early when defender Soorosh Zalmo limped off because of an injury, leaving them to revert to a more attacking formation. That exposed their defense and it wasn’t long before Kaya tormented them.
Jonah Romero earned the penalty that gave Borromeo the chance to open the scoring in the 20th minute. A quick diagonal ball from Burkey released Romero who beat Jay Torres, before drawing a foul on Mansour Mahdadi.
Borromeo sent Abdollah Golkah the wrong way to make it 1-0. Kaya grew in strength after the goal and 10 minutes later, Semblat who was struggling with his touch early on doubled the advantage.
Lexton Moy found Semblat free on the left and the Frenchman faked past Emil Muncada defender before firing with his left foot.
Under pressure from Burkey, Muncada rammed into a rushing Golkah, injuring the goalkeeper in the head. Golkah was substituted at halftime, making way for Joshua Cruz, who produced a string of impressive saves to keep Kaya scoreless in the second half.
Pasargad managed to put pressure on Kaya for long periods in the second half but Kaya desperately hung on.
“We got the win and that’s the more important thing,” said a relieved Aly Borromeo. “ We got to polish a few things especially at the midfield, swinging the ball from the left to right because in the first half that’s where we were most effective swinging the ball from left to right penetrating them. But in the second half we were no longer doing that and it almost cost us.“