Tahj Minniecon netted a brace as FC Meralco Manila outplayed Kaya FC-Makati anew in the Metro Manila derby to reclaim the top spot in the Philippines Football League (PFL) on Saturday night at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
Minniecon struck a goal in each half as Meralco Manila edged out its regional rival for the second time in the league’s inaugural season, with the first one a 2-0 victory last June 17 at the University of Makati Football Stadium.
The capital club grabbed the pole position once again as it improved its record to 9-3-1 win-draw-loss for 30 points, two markers clear of Global Cebu FC, which earlier handed Ilocos United FC a 2-1 nipping.
Sparks head coach Aris Caslib was elated to see his men seized their first win without their longtime main men Phil and James Younghusband, who were involved in a blockbuster transfer last week.
“The match itself speaks for the quality of the players,” said Caslib, whose team went into its second match minus the Younghusband brothers.
“Before the game, the message to the team was that the bench must step up and they did,” he added.
Kaya Makati dropped to No. 3 as its card dipped to 8-3-4 with 27 points.
Noel Marcaida, mentor of the Makati-based booters, rued the offside call on Jordan Mintah’s potential equalizer and a non-call of a possible rash tackle on Eric Giganto inside the penalty box early in the injury time.
“The referees can only decide based on what they see and at the end of the day their decision is always final,” said Marcaida, who also got disappointed with his wards’ performance in the first 45 minutes.
“We have to play two halves of quality football. That’s how the game goes. We didn’t perform properly as planned,” added Marcaida.
Meralco went aggressive in the early goings and got rewarded when Curt Dizon sprung on an errant Kaya pass on the midfield then dished out an assist to a streaking Minniecon, who beat goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma in the 23rd minute.
The visitors were able to level in the 78th as Milan Nikolic sent the ball into their own goal, marking the Serbian defender’s second straight misplay following a similar blunder in a 1-2 loss to Global Cebu on Wednesday.
Seven minutes before time, Kaya’s Alfred Osei downed Dizon in the box, prompting referee Steve Supresencia to award a penalty to the home side.
Minniecon made no mistake from the penalty spot to score the eventual match-winner.
Following the decisions of referees that triggered protests from Kaya, Robert Lopez Mendy came up with a potential-game tying goal in a one-on-one with Meralco goalkeepeer Jun Badelic but the Senegalese striker shot wide.
JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA