Ceres Negros FC showed no signs of rust as it downed Kaya FC-Makati, 3-2, in its return to the Philippines Football League (PFL) on Saturday at the University of Makati Football Stadium.
Coming off its historic championship in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup Asean Zone four days back, Ceres Negros booked its eighth win in 11 games and firmed up its hold of No. 4 with 25 points.
“I think we deserve the victory. We played better and tried to play football all the time,” said Ceres head coach Risto Vidakovic.
The Serbian mentor, however, rued the non-calls on possible fouls, which he said could be “very dangerous” for the players.
Kaya Makati failed to defend its home turf for the second straight time and absorbed its fifth defeat though it remained on No. 3 with 27 points.
Ceres struck the opener in the 19th minute as Omid Nazari buried a free kick, which was awarded after a Kaya defender tripped a streaking Fernando Rodriguez inches outside the penalty box.
Arnie Pasinabo gave the visitors a comfortable 2-0 cushion with a curling shot that sailed past goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma four minutes after the restart.
Robert Lopez Mendy, who misfired a wide-open attempt before the first half whistle, made no mistake with another opportunity, firing the first goal for the Makati booters in the 51st.
The Visayan club’s Spanish forwards combined forces for their final tally as Rodriguez sent a low cross to Bienvenido Marañon, who easily tapped it home.
Jordan Mintah scored a consolation goal for the men of Noel Marcaida shortly before the match ended.
Meanwhile, FC Meralco Manila extended its lead atop the table as it fended off a gutsy Stallion Laguna FC, 3-2, at the Biñan Football Stadium.
Connor Tacagni fired a brace off headers and Tyler Matas nailed the other goal for Meralco Manila, which improved its record to 10-3-2 win-draw-loss with 33 points, five markers clear of second-running Global Cebu FC.
The Sparks enjoyed a huge 3-0 lead as Tacagni notched two goals in the first half and Matas found the back of the net in the 55th.
Stallion Laguna tried to forge a fightback with late goals from Ko Kyungjoon and Fitch Arboleda but the home squad ran out of time.
With the loss, the Stallions saw their four-game unbeaten run snapped as they absorbed their eighth loss in 15 games though they stayed on No. 6 with 14 points.