Meralco Manila & Stallion Laguna settle for goalless draw

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The Sparks & Stallion ended their cagey battle to a 0-0 standoff to share spoils on Saturday, October 14 in Rizal Memorial.

The point brings Meralco closer to clinching a playoff berth but it’s also their second match in a row where they drop points. With the result, they now sit at 45 points, four clear of Kaya. Also, Stallion draws them in Rizal Memorial now for the second time in this Philippines Football League season.

Sparks coach Aris Caslib missed two regular starters to suspension, Joaco Cañas and Alvin Sarmiento, while another player, Neil Dorimon, was also out on accumulated yellows. That meant Tyler Matas, who once again played a full 90 minutes for a 22nd straight match since the start of the season, shifted to centerback, allowing Jake Morallo to play left wingback.

Chances were few and far between in the first half and mostly coming from Stallion Laguna. Gabriele Mascazzini, Yuki Versoza, and Nate Alquiros all either missed the target or gave Manila keeper Jun Badelic easy saves. On the flip side, Sparks Connor Tacagni and Tahj Minniecon both got booked. The yellow card means Minniecon misses Friday’s game against Ilocos.

In the 53rd minute Stallion center back Ko Kyungjoon had the best chance to open the scoring but his long range shot off a free kick fluttered inches above the crossbar. Minutes later Carlo Polli tested Badelic with a tame effort moments after newly minted Azkal Jhanjhan Melliza checked in for Yannick Tuason.

With 15 minutes left, Meralco nearly went ahead when Lee Jeong Min produced a header off an Anto Gonzales looper that skipped off the top of the crossbar.

5 minutes later Stallion Fitch Arboleda delivered a shot in the box that was blocked by Morallo. Laguna fans wanted a penalty kick but referee Ariel Montaña waved play on.

Deep into second half stoppage time Alquiros had a gilt-edged opportunity to seal the game but his left footer from 12 yards out sailed just high.

Moments later Minniecon forced a save from Laguna goalie Bitoy Rosalia. The rebound was bundled home by substitute Jinggoy Valmayor but the assistant referee adjudged Minniecon to be offside from his shot.

“It was a well-played game from both sides,” said Laguna coach Ernest Nierras, who bemoaned the loss of Melliza with a groin injury with a few minutes to go.

“We wanted to control the middle of the pitch and we did,” added the coach.

“We also addressed the long throws of Tyler Matas and their corners,” said Nierras.

“For me we played better. We had so many shots,” said Polli. Both he and coach felt a penalty should have been awarded on the Morallo block.

“We wanted three points so this is a setback for us,” said Caslib.

“But everyone in the organization knows where we are so we all really need to step up.”

Sparks captain Simon Greatwich described the contest as a “scrappy game, not much football being played. Lots of 50-50s and poor controls. Both teams had chances to score.”

“We need to be positive. We need to regroup,” added the skipper.

Manila travels to Ilocos for their next assignment on Friday while Stallion Laguna hosts a lethal Ceres Negros FC on Saturday.

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