FC Meralco Manila settled for a goalless draw with Ceres Negros FC to maintain its hold of the top spot in the Philippines Football League (PFL) on Friday at the Philippine Football Federation National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.
The leading Sparks slightly improved to 58 points on a 17-7-4 win-draw-loss record.
Although Meralco Manila closed its elimination round campaign with its third goalless draw, head coach Aris Caslib still lauded his team for plunging into action without its key players.
“Hats off to our players who played with so many starters unavailable,” said Caslib, who missed the services of Milan Nikolic, Joaco Cañas, Daniel Gadia and Tyler Matas due to suspension because of accumulated yellow cards.
The second-running Yellow Busmen, who failed to snatch the pole position anew, remained one point behind on a 17-5-4 card.
Despite squandering another chance, Ceres Negros mentor Risto Vidakovic was still elated with the outcome as none of his players got injured in the tight affair.
“No injuries means a successful day for us. It’s very important to keep the players free from injury,” said Vidakovic.
Ceres still has the opportunity to catch the elusive top spot when it battles rival Global Cebu FC in the last installment of the Visayas Clasico.
A win or a draw against the Cebuanos on November 28 will tow the Negrenses to a first place finish.
The provisional host squad had early scoring chances through the effort of Tahj Minniecon and Jim Ashley Flores but the visiting team’s goalkeeper Roland Muller parried every shot.
Muller’s prowess in manning the post was evident as the former Azkals stalwart came through with three consecutive saves down the stretch, including a punch on Curt Dizon’s free kick.
It was the first draw in the four scheduled encounters between the two powerhouse teams.