Robert Lopez Mendy’s Hat-trick Sends Kaya FC–Iloilo Through to Copa Paulino Alcantara Final
ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 22, 2018 10:17 AM
Kaya FC-Iloilo moves on to the Copa Paulino Alcantara Finals
October 21, 2018; Iloilo — Kaya FC–Iloilo booked their place in the Copa Paulino Alcantara Final after a thrilling 3-2 victory over Stallion Laguna at the Iloilo Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon. Robert Lopez Mendy scored all three goals for Iloilo, nullifying a valiant fightback from the visitors.
“With this win the road to AFC stays alive. I’m proud of our players. From the start of the game, we saw the intensity, the grit, and hunger to win the game,” said Iloilo head coach Noel Marcaida.
“Before the cup started, our main focus was to play this semifinal here in Iloilo. We were successful in that. We wanted the game here because we’re confident in front of our Ilonggo fans. It gives us the extra gas. They’re a part of this win in the semifinals. We thank everyone for always supporting us. We hope we see them in the final,” he added.
The match got off to the perfect start for Kaya, with Lopez Mendy unleashing a sensational rocket from way out to open the scoring just four minutes into the contest. The Senegalese striker doubled the advantage in the 15th minute from a well worked corner. Miguel Tanton played a quick one-two with Marwin Angeles, allowing Tanton space to deliver a killer cross for Robert to head in.
It looked like Iloilo were set to cruise to victory, but Stallion had other plans. Just five minutes after conceding a second, Fitch Arboleda broke free from his marker and side-footed Carlo Polli’s free kick to make it 2-1. Laguna then started piling on the pressure, peppering Ace Villanueva with a flurry of attempts.
Eventually the visitors broke through. Just two minutes before the break, Villanueva managed to stop Jhan Jhan Melliza strike, but the ball fell for Polli, who smashed in the rebound to level the score. Iloilo almost retook the lead before half-time, but Benito Rosalia first denied Jovin Bedic’s long range looper, then pulled off a spectacular double save shortly after to ensure parity after 45 minutes.
Stallion emerged from the interval early and hungry to push on, but the fightback came undone just two minutes after the restart. Miguel Tanton’s long range attempt cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and into the path of Lopez Mendy, who placed a header beyond the reach of Rosalia.
The rest of the half was an exercise in discipline for Kaya, as they matched Stallion’s intensity to hold on to the 3-2 victory.
“All the credit goes to the boys. We had the desire to win this game and to play in the Final. The objective is the AFC [Cup]. We got the job done today, but we still have one game to go. We have to focus 100% to win that game. It’s crucial for our season,” said Man of the Match Robert Lopez Mendy, who was also awarded Player of the Season by Kaya FC–Iloilo’s fan club.
“It’s great to play in front of this wonderful crowd. We hope they can join us in the final We really need the 12th man. We have more energy to fight, to win, to do whatever’s necessary with them there. With this help, we can achieve our objective,” he said.
Kaya FC–Iloilo now march on to the Final, which takes place on Saturday, October 27, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.