2016 AFC Cup: KAYA FC grabs Group F lead with win over Balestier Khalsa

Santino Honasan on Mar 15, 2016 11:29 PM
KAYA FC grabs Group F lead with win over Balestier Khalsa
Antonio Ugarte (8) scored early in the second half to help KAYA FC past Singapore's Balestier Khalsa, 1-0, and claim the top spot in Group F of the 2016 AFC Cup Group Stage

A second half goal from Antonio Ugarte was all that was needed as Pinoy club KAYA FC turned back Singapore’s Balestier Khalsa FC, 1-0, Tuesday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

The Filipino side was in control early in the match, dominating possession and getting a handful of shots off while keeping the Singaporean visitors at bay with some pretty stifling defense.

The 2015 UFL Cup champs came pretty close to scoring in the first frame, courtesy of OJ Porteria, but Balestier Khalsa keeper and skipper Zaiful came up with a a big save.

Three minutes into the second half however, Fil-American Ugarte received a pass from Jovin Bedic, dribbled the ball once to get into position, and then blasted it right through Zaiful and into the back of the goal to give the home team the advantage.

The visitors came dangerously close to converting the equalizer, but KAYA keeper Matthew Acton came up with a big-time save of his own to preserve the advantage.

With Ugarte getting a couple of shots on target that could have easily pushed the Filipino side up 3-zip, Balestier Khalsa turned things up in the second half and got more aggressive, getting more shots off and putting pressure on KAYA.

Unfortunately for the Singaporean visitors, no conversion would follow, as the Pinoys celebrated their second straight 2016 AFC Cup win.

“How they played today, para sa akin, excellent football, excellent football siya,” KAYA coach Joel Villarino said during the post-match presser. “They rotate, they know where to go, may direction yung play. I liked the defense, maganda, na-control nila, and the infield as well.”

When asked about Ugarte’s game-clinching goal, Villarino only had one word to describe it: “Unbelievable.”

The win gives KAYA a valuable three points and they grab solo lead of Group F with six points in three matches. The end the first leg of the Group Stage with two clear points above Balestier Khalsa and Kitchee, while New Radiant sits at the bottom of the group with just two points.

The remainder of the Group Stage for KAYA will be a bit tougher, as they play two of the remaining three games on the road. They head to Singapore on April 12 for a rematch against Balestier Khalsa, before heading back home one last time to host Kitchee on April 26, and then it’s back on the road, in the Maldives, where they close out the Group Stage against New Radiant. 

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