MANILA, Philippines – Inspiring heroes, superb goals, and a great atmosphere all played a part in the first-ever match day of the Philippine Premier League (PPL) at the Rizal Memorial Complex pitch on Saturday, April 27.
Several hundred fans saw Kaya FC-Iloilo get its first win at the expense of Globe Green Archers United FC with a 3-0 victory, while Philippine Air Force and Mendiola split the points with a 2-2 draw.
Nimrod Balabat made history with the very first PPL goal in the 8th minute for Mendiola, finding the back of the net with a long ranger right footer past Air Force goalkeeper Mark Mendome.
Mendome was able to top over Ashley Flores' strike that could have made it 2-0 to the Red Lions.
The Airmen leveled in the 39th when fullback Rudolf Bebanco nodded in a loose ball off a rebound.
Minutes later Mendome was called upon again to deny Shaun Soberano's shot.
Mendiola retook the lead in the 58th when Papuh Corsame exploited some indecision in the Air Force back line to power home a go-ahead goal.
But the Airmen made sure points would be shared when Yanti Barsales produced a cultured finish from the left flank to beat Red Lions goalie Ralph Datoy in the 79th minute and get the Man of the Match nod.
Kaya welcomed back Azkals legend Simone Rota for his first competitive match in 9 months and he was rock solid in the back as they won decisively.
The Ilonggo team wasted little time in going ahead. In the 11th minute, Darryl Roberts laid back elegantly to Arnel Amita just inside the box and the diminutive son of Maco, Compostela Valley, blasted home for 1-0.
Just 5 minutes later the Kaya lead grew to 2-0 when Jovin Bedic delivered another one of his trademark volleys. Bedic won Man of the Match honors.
The Green Archers held the fort for the next hour, with Jimuel Ariola having a free kick saved and Fredy Mbang firing wide from 30 yards.
But Kaya put the game out of reach in the 79th when sub Jordan Mintah centered to an unmarked Yannick Tuason, who speared the ball past Henri Bandeken.
John Celiz could have pulled a goal back late for the Green Archers, but he shot just wide.
"The boys worked very hard in the first 20 minutes and were able to dictate the tempo for the whole match," said Kaya FC-Iloilo coach Noel Marcaida.
The PPL is the new top tier of men's senior football in the Philippines. It is a professional football competition that also serves as the country's qualifier for AFC club competitions. – Rappler.com