Daniel Gadia netted the match-winner as FC Meralco Manila downed Global Cebu FC, 2-1, to extend its lead in the Philippines Football League (PFL) on Sunday night at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
Substitute midfielder Gadia pulled off a clinical finish late in the game, scoring the game-winning goal to push the Sparks further ahead with 57 points on an improved 17-6-4 win-draw-loss record.
“All week we had been reminding Gadia to just place the ball on his finishing. In the last minutes of the game, he did his job well,” said Meralco Manila head coach Aris Caslib of his second-stringer.
With the win, the capital club stretched its advantage to four points over chasing Ceres Negros FC, which has 53 markers with three games to spare.
It was the first time for Meralco to beat Global Cebu and the victory also meant that the Manileños had already beaten all the other clubs in the eight-team league.
With both clubs already bound for the Finals Series along with Kaya-FC Makati and Ceres Negros, the game had no much bearing except for the seeding heading into the semifinals.
Global remained on the fourth spot with 44 points on a 12-8-7 card and would likely end up facing the top team as third-placed Kaya Makati is still three markers ahead and has a higher goal difference.
Singaporean tactician Akbar Nawas rued the Cebuanos’ missed chances from close range as they absorbed their first defeat from the Manileños in four encounters.
“We were unlucky with our chances at the goal. We had so many from so near (yet we were not able to convert),” lamented Nawas, whose men pulled off a win and forced two draws against the Sparks in their previous faceoffs.
Although Global was technically the host squad, the match was played at the Rizal Memorial pitch due to the unavailability of the Cebu City Sports Center, which served as the venue of a previously scheduled youth sporting event.
Playing on a familiar field, Meralco dictated the tempo right from the get-go, getting chances from forwards Jinggoy Valmayor and Tahj Minniecon.
The Sparks’ relentless aggression paid off when Ashley Flores outran his defenders before issuing a nifty pass to Minniecon, who easily beat goalkeeper Patrick Deyto for the opener in the 31st minute.
But six minutes later, the People’s Club notched the first half equalizer as Hikaru Minegishi launched a long shot that sailed past goalkeeper Ace Villanueva.
The game stayed on a deadlock until Gadia, who came in with just 11 minutes left in regulation, sent the ball into the bottom left corner of the net for the game-winner in the 86th.