Fernando Rodriguez powered a shorthanded Ceres Negros FC to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Kaya FC-Makati in a controversial game on Saturday in the Philippines Football League (PFL) at the rain-soaked Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City.
Rodriguez blasted the match-winner deep in injury time as the Yellow Busmen extended their winning streak to three and strengthened their grip of No. 3 with 38 points on a 12-2-3 win-draw-loss record.
Ceres Negros had to survive the ejection of head coach Risto Vidakovic, who was sent off due to confronting the officials after a highly-physical play, and Jeffrey Christiaens for a second yellow card.
“We the staff are very proud of our players because we played against eleven players plus the referees,” said Ceres assistant mentor Pepe Losada, who also pointed out the six yellow cards and a red one handed to the host while the visitors had none.
“This is no good for the Philippine football. If the federation does not fix this problem, it’s impossible to improve here in the Philippines,” added Losada.
Kaya Makati suffered its seventh setback in 24 games though it remained on No. 2 with 41 points on 12 wins and five draws.
Jordan Mintah buried the opening goal for the Lions just three minutes into the match but Bienvenido Marañon quickly equalized for the Busmen with a timely header off a lobbed ball seven minutes later.
The home team then took the lead in the 15th minute as a low cross deflected by Janrick Soriano rolled in the path of Rodriguez, who promptly smashed it into the back of the net.
A scramble inside the Visayan club’s penalty box led to another deadlock in the 56th. Ceres goalkeeper Roland Muller was able to collect a cross from Marwin Angeles but he dropped the ball after Mintah hit his head, allowing Alfred Osei’s easy tap-in.
Vidakovic engaged the referees for letting the play go on, leading to the Serbian tactician’s removal.
Things turned worse for the Busmen with Christiaens committing his second bookable offense and Marañon wasting a penalty kick following a weak shot that was well saved by Ref Cuaresma.
Rodriguez salvaged Ceres as the unmarked Spanish striker received a nifty pass from Stephan Shrock before firing from close range in the 94th to seal the maximum points.
Meanwhile, FC Meralco Manila and Stallion Laguna FC shared the spoils in their last encounter as they wound up in a goalless draw at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
With their sixth stalemate against 13 wins and three losses, the leading Sparks improved to 45 points.
Despite failing to get a victory over the capital powerhouse in all their ties, the Stallions still snatched away the No. 5 spot from JPV Marikina FC as they hiked their total to 28 points on seven wins and seven draws against nine defeats.
JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA