The Philippine Azkals Under-22 squad faces a tough test as it tries to keep its hold of the group lead against powerhouse Ceres Negros FC in the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara today at the Biñan Football Stadium in Laguna.
The young Azkals will have their mettle tested versus the three-time Philippines Football League (PFL) champions Yellow Busmen in Group A at 4 p.m.
Boasting a fine mix of local and overseas-based standouts, the U22 national team flashed its potential with a 1-0 win over Green Archers United FC in its cup competition debut last Sunday.
Lanky forward Chima Uzoka scored the lone goal for the Southeast Asian Games-bound squad via a strong header off midfielder Jerome Marzan’s corner kick in the 50th minute.
Fil-Swiss goalkeeper Anthony Pinthus also had an impressive performance along with Fil-Norwegian defender Edison Suerti and Fil-Scottish midfielder Yrik Galantes, who suited up in the senior Azkals’ goalless draw with China last month.
The victory catapulted the Azkals U22 to the top of the group with three points, two markers ahead of Ceres Negros which was held to a 2-2 draw by Mendiola FC 1991 last Saturday.
Meanwhile, Mendiola will look to sustain the momentum from its stunning stalemate with Ceres when it duels the rebound win-seeking Green Archers United at 4 p.m. at the Aboitiz Football Pitch in Lipa City, Batangas.
Mendiola’s Hamed Hajimehdi and Roberto Corsame Jr. netted the goals that negated Senegalese striker Robert Lopez Mendy’s early brace for Ceres.
In the other fixture at 7 p.m. at the Aboitiz Pitch, PFL mainstay Stallion Laguna FC makes its debut in the three-club Group B against Philippine Air Force FC.
The Stallions are coming off a third-place finish with an 11-6-7 win-draw-loss record in the domestic top flight.
The Airmen, on the other hand, will try to bounce back from a 0-5 beatdown to defending Copa champion Kaya FC-Iloilo last Saturday.