Ceres Negros FC banked on its spitfire Spanish strikers as it dealt FC Meralco Manila another sound beating, 6-0, to close in on the top spot in the Philippines Football League (PFL) on Sunday at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City.
Fernando Rodriguez struck a hat-trick while Bienvenido Marañon netted a brace for the Yellow Busmen, who zoomed to their third straight win and 16th overall to go with three draws against four losses for 51 points on No. 2.
With the win that saw them drain four goals within the first 45 minutes, the Negrenses are now three points away from the pole position with five matches to spare.
“I think we played well, especially in the first half. We played with high intensity and if we play with high intensity, the result is usually very good,” said Ceres Negros head coach Risto Vidakovic.
The rout was reminiscent of the game last July 15 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, wherein the Busmen pulled off a 7-0 romp over the Sparks.
It was also a revenge victory for Ceres after Meralco Manila gave the former its first loss on its home turf with a 2-1 stunner last August 16.
Meralco head coach Aris Caslib offered an excuse for some of his players’ lackluster performance but was quick to add that the huge defeat was a lesson for them.
“A few of our players were sick and it affected us,” said Caslib, whose wards suffered their fourth loss though they stayed atop the table with 54 points built on 16 wins and six draws.
“When we came here tonight, we never expected a 6-nil scoreline but we learned our lesson and these are the things that will make us better,” he added.
The visitors had early chances from Curt Dizon and Milan Nikolic but it was Marañon who fired off the scoring spree for the home side in the 22nd minute.
Carlie De Murga added another one just six minutes later and Rodriguez quickly blasted two goals for a 4-0 halftime lead.
Rodriguez achieved his second straight hat-trick in the 54th before Marañon completed his brace in the 67th with a splendid shot from a tight angle.
Meanwhile, Stallion Laguna FC finished its campaign on a winning note as it blanked Davao Aguilas FC, 2-0, at the Davao Del Norte Sports Complex in Tagum City.
Gabriel Mascazzini and Fitch Arboleda scored in the second half as the No. 5 Stallions ended their season with an improved 9-8-11 win-draw-loss record for 35 points.
The No. 7 Aguilas, who fell to a four-game winless run, remained with 15 points on a dismal 2-9-13 card.