Loyola Meralco Sparks FC spoiled the return of defending champion Ceres La Salle FC via a close 3-2 decision in the opening day of the 2016 United Football League (UFL) on Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Loyola came prepared in the heated initial outing in this year’s league with high intensity plays on both ends throughout the match to taint Ceres’ title defense.
After few exchanges from the two clubs, it was the Sparks who took the front seat early in the match following a goal by team captain James Younghusband in the 13th minute.
Ceres was patient in its offense in finding the equalizer as Korean striker Lee Jeong Woo managed to slip past his markers to level the score line at 1-1 at the 40th minute mark.
However, Meralco refused to slow down on blitzes as they once again regained the upper hand with a strike by youngster Curt Dizon in the first minute of the added time to give his side a 2-1 lead at halftime.
When play resumed, Loyola’s lead was extended to two goals when Spanish forward Alvaro Castiella found the back of the net in the 67th minute.
On the other hand, being down 3-1 in the final stretch of the ball game, the Busmen pushed hard to ignite their attacks with several raids and was rewarded with a free kick deep inside their foes’ territory in the 84th.
Greuther Furth standout Stephan Schrock, who is currently on loan to Ceres, sent the looping ball off a free kick to cut the deficit down to just a goal before the end of regulation.
Meanwhile, JP Voltes FC and Kaya FC figured lopsided in wins in the season-opening match date of the UFL.
JP Voltes relied on the hat trick of Bacolod’s J Baguioro to pound the hapless defense of Pasargad to record a 6-0 win and claim their first three points of the season.
Japanese booter Takashi Odawara also etched his name on the scorecard for Voltes while Lendon Marcojos and Alen Angeles had a goal each for their side.
Also, Kaya FC started their season on a high note following the 10-2 rout former second division club Laos FC.
Prolific scorer Robert Lopez Mendy, OJ Porteria and Louis Clark had brace performances, respectively, to power their squad to their first win in the 2016 season.
Consequently, Kenshiro Daniels, Jovin Bedic, Julian Matthews and Janrick Soriano also struck goals in Kaya commanding return to the country’s top football competition.
Additionally, Laos did not back down from the tall challenges of Kaya as they took goals of their own to deny their opposition a clean sheet with shots from Hamed Hajimehdi and Patrick Franksson.
JAELLE NEVIN REYES