Meralco Manila tries to extend its lead at the top of the Philippines Football League (PFL) when it hosts newcomer Ilocos United 4 p.m today at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Riding high on an impressive 5-1 win over Stallion Laguna last week, Meralco looks to assert itself early against an Ilocos side that battled the Davao Aguilas to a 1-1 draw last Sunday.
Although Meralco boasts of a deep and talented roster compared to Ilocos, Meralco captain James Younghusband insists his team isn’t looking past the visiting team, which also has a slew of experienced players.
“We cannot take any team lightly,” said Younghusband, who accounted for one of the goals in last Saturday’s rout at Biñan Stadium.
“We’re really happy with last week’s performance. It’s a long way to go but the win is good for our confidence. We need to keep improving. As a team, we scored goals but we think we can do better.”
Curt Dizon, Milan Nikolic, Tahj Minniecon and Phil Younghusband also found the back of the net, underlining the attacking depth of coach Aris Caslib’s side.
Ilocos needed a 79th minute penalty from captain John Kanayama to forge a draw against the Aguilas.
Apart from Kanayama, Angelo Marasigan also stood out with his threatening runs inside the box. The Fil-Belgian winger also earned the penalty that Kanayama converted.
Ilocos coach Ian Gillan is confident that his side can cope with the threat posed by Meralco.
“We want to make this a competitive match,” said Gillan. “This game will be a good gauge for us because the players are performing well in training. We don’t want to be in the same position as last week so the preparation has been quite good.”
An interesting subplot to the clash will be the presence of former Meralco players now with the Ilocos side, including Kanayama, Graham Caygill, Baba Sampana and Marasigan.
Kanayama is undaunted by the prospect of facing a powerhouse side like Meralco.
“We’re the new boys and we want to prove up we can stand up against the bigger clubs,” said Kanayama.