LAGUNA, Philippines – In a finals-worthy action-packed matchup between two long-time Mindanao rivals, Zamboanga Peninsula came from two goals down to edge Davao Region, 4-3, in the Palarong Pambansa secondary football quarterfinals, Thursday, May 8 at the Laguna State Polytechnic University in Sta. Cruz.
There were no shortage of drama right from the get-go until the final whistle as Region IX ended years of frustration and completed this year's Palaro Final Four cast.
For the first time in a long while, Zamboanga got past the quarterfinal stage but they had to uncork a spirited late-game assault against the Davao Eagles first in a match that kept fans in the venue at the edge of their seats.
Mark Niñolas opened up the scoring in the 25th as he drilled one in for the Dipolog-based squad but Region IX were left shell-shocked when Davao scored thrice in a span of eight minutes, via a controversial Javier Romero-Salas 39th minute goal that came off what coach Joseph Fiel believes as offside and an excellent volley from Darius Diamante in the 44th.
Sparked by their late surge, Zamboanga did not even allow the game to be sent to extra time when the pint-sized Jayson Gumba banked in the winner deep in stoppage time from another counter.
"Even when we were down, we still played by our gameplan and did not look at the scoreboard. We just played our game and it worked," Fiel told Rappler after his wards secured a ticket to the Final Four.
"Even though there was that questionable call, we should not allow ourselves to be distracted."
Big City bets trample Northern Mindanao
As expected, perennial contenders National Capital Region (NCR) steamrolled into the Final Four as they made short work of Northern Mindanao, 3-0
After going perfect in the eliminations, posting wins against Western Visayas, Ilocos Region, and ARMM, the Big City bets secured a ticket to the semifinals as they cruised past their Mindanao counterparts in what was NCR's closest encounter in this year's Palaro.
NCR -- which is mainly comprised of players off Loyola Meralco Sparks' youth system -- now has scored 28 times in their four games, conceding only one goal so far against Western Visayas. They also posted the biggest winning margin this year, a 17-0 thrashing of ARMM last Tuesday. – Rappler.com