Top flight newcomers Ceres-La Salle and Manila Jeepney made splashes by posting impressive victories in the opening of the FA League Cup at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Former League and UFL Cup champions Stallion FC also notched a victory in the day’s first match, setting the tone for a goal-filled spectacle which totaled nine for the entire evening.
Bacolod powerhouse Ceres-La Salle shrugged aside 1st Division mainstays Pachanga, 4-0. Having acquired high profile players during the transfer window, expectations were high for the recent 2nd Division victors, and the club certainly didn’t disappoint its boisterous supporters.
“We’re happy with the result. Performance-wise, for me I saw the boys train. We trained two months straight, very hard training. The play is there, but maybe it was a little bit of the first game jinx. We hit the bar so many times,” said Ceres team manager Ali Go.
Formerly the head coach of the club, responsible for steering the squad to back-to-back Smart National Club Championship successes, Go felt that despite the 4-0 win, there was plenty of room for improvement.
“We had to find our way. Pachanga is a good team, they have experienced players. They have Anto (Gonzales) who is there – their commander. They have new recruits, Koreans and Iranians. I respect the club, but we are fortunate we scored two consecutive goals in the first half. I think we need to work harder. They are other clubs out there who are going to give a really really hard time for us. But we’re here to play with the best, so I think this game is a good result, but we can play better football,” said Go.
Orman Okunaiya came on in the 31st minute and made an instant impact, slotting in a goal the 38th minute, with new Spanish striker Adrian Gallardo Valdes doubling the advantage a minute later. The striker smashed in his second in the 66th minute, with Patrick Reichelt adding the finishing touches right before the final whistle.
In the previous match, Manila Jeepney scored in the 92nd minute to deny Green Archers United an opening day win. The newly promoted side opened the four-goal affair just five minutes into the game, with Koffi Kouassi converting from up close.
But the Archers snatched the advantage in the second half, with Robert Lopez Mendy’s header squaring the score, before Jesus Melliza fired in the spectacular go-ahead from just outside the area. United looked all set for the victory, but Jaham Taher popped up in injury time to grab a point for Manila Jeepney.
“After the first half especially, I think they (the other teams) will think twice about us. They’re going to say ‘alright, Manila Jeepney is a 2nd Division team,’ but I think we made an impact today, especially the first half. They are taking us seriously, just like how we take every game seriously. We have a lot to learn and we’re excited,” said newly appointed playing assistant coach Davide Cortina.
“I’m happy because I was given an opportunity to play the whole game. At times I was nervous because my college coach (FEU) is now the coach for Manila Jeepney. But I said to myself that when I’m playing in the UFL for Green Archers, I’m only playing for Green Archers,” said Archers rising star Melliza.
Fitch Arboleda scored the solitary goal in Stallion’s opening win over Philippine Army, in a match that the former double champions completely dominated.
Acting head coach Marjo Allado was full of praise for the opposition keeper, who disallowed Stallion from running away with a lopsided score.
“The first game is important in every tournament. We won 1-0, but we started slow,” said Allado. “I think the best player of the game is the keeper of Army, he saved a lot of attempts. We tried our best to score, but we just couldn’t get through. The best part of the performance was after 90 minutes we sustained our pressure and defended the 1-0 lead.”