Former champion Ceres La Salle FC demolished newly crowned champion Global FC, 5-0, in the second round of the United Football League (UFL) at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on Sunday.
After eliciting a 3-3 draw from their rivals in the first round, Ceres soundly beat Global to improve its chances of clinching a seat in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup next year.
High-scoring Spanish forward Adrian Gallardo Valdez was on top of his game as he led the Bacolod City powerhouse squad with a brace performance.
It was Gallardo who opened the goal fest of Ceres with a strike in the 38th minute followed by a shot by Jeffrey Christriaens in the 43rd minute to put their club up, 2-0, at halftime.
Problems piled up for the men of John Burridge as prolific scorer Arthur Kouassi was ejected out of the match in the second minute of stoppage time through a red card.
Ceres La Salle continued its insidious offensive as play resumed in the second half.
The relentless raids of the Busmen in the territory of their foes were swiftly rewarded with a conversion by winger Orman Okunaiya just three minutes after the restart.
On the other hand, the undermanned Global side relied on the sneaky moves of Hikaru Minegeshi for their attacks but was unable to pierce through the guard of Ceres goalkeeper Michael Casas.
Two more goals were added to Ceres before the end of regulation as Bienvenido Maranon found the back of the net in the 80th minute while Gallardo capped off his impressive display with a strike in the 89th.
“The key was defending good. We talked before the game and the guys did very well. It was very difficult to speak about the game because they (Global) had a man less, when they got the red card it was all over,” Ceres head coach Risto Vidakovic said during the postmatch interview.
He added that the victory was crucial in their attempt to bag the final second spot at the end of the season and once again represent the country in the international stage.
Vidakovic stressed that they are now looking forward to their equally important match against fellow AFC Cup hopeful JP Voltes FC in their final outing of the season on Sunday next week.
“We have one week to prepare for it. I hope we will be able to play like today. We must play together, defend together, attack together. That’s what’s more important than playing individually. The only way to win the game is if everyone plays together,” he said.
Ceres La Salle currently holds a provisional one-point advantage over close contenders Loyola Meralco Sparks FC and JP Voltes with just a game each on their slates.
Meanwhile, Stallion FC clipped Green Archers United FC, 3-1, in the first game of the Sunday double-header.