With the game entering the final minute of regulation, the highly anticipated derby between Kaya Makati and Meralco Manila looked destined for a 1-1 draw. Neither team had scored in the second half, but that all changed in an instant. Found by Jordan Mintah, Eric Giganto raced free in behind Meralco’s defence. He faked a shot to get his defender to commit, transferred it to his left side, then buried the ball to send the University of Makati crowd to their feet.
“I’m so happy. I know the team worked so hard. I came off from the bench, and I knew that the coaching staff had a lot of expectations of me. So when I came in, I just did my best and performed my game. A goal, a win, it’s such a nice feeling,” Eric Giganto said after the game.
The victory was Kaya Makati’s first over their rivals this season, and it comes at a vital stage of their Philippines Football League campaign.
“It’s a very important three points for us. Coming into this game, the coaches, the staff, the players were very positive. We were looking forward to this point. We’re very happy to get the result. As I said before, this game was a test of consistency for both clubs. I think my players prevailed in this — we were more consistent, and that led to the three points,” said Kaya Makati head coach Noel Marcaida.
The match started well for the home side. Robert Lopez Mendy fired into the chest of the opposition goalkeeper 13 minutes in, almost capitalizing on a slip from a Meralco defender. The deadlock was broken halfway through the period, with Kenshiro Daniels and Jordan Mintah connecting beautifully. Set free on the right flank by Alfred Osei, Kenshiro rode a tackle, raced to the end line, then delivered a dangerous ball into the box. Jordan met the cross first, and directed it into the goal for the game’s opener.
Things got heated shortly after, as Miguel Tanton and Anto Gonzales got involved in a scuffle. The two needed to be separated by their teammates, with each earning a booking when things died down. Five minutes after that incident, Lee Jeongmin got on the end of a Meralco free kick into the Kaya box. He chested the ball down and side footed into the net for the equalizer.
After the half, the intensity and physicality on the pitch only increased. Nine players would be booked by the end of the contest. While chances became less frequent, the numerous individual battles on the field took center stage. In the 79th minute, it looked as if the visitors would snatch the win. Tahj Minniecon robbed Daniels of the ball in the Kaya box, but with Ref Cuaresma approaching, the Australian could only fire wide. That set the stage for Eric’s dramatic late winner.
“I’m so happy. Hindi ko na expect na ma-shoo-shoot ko yun because, it came from nowhere. Winning goal pa, so I want to thank God. When I looked forward, I saw a defender. When I went to shoot, the angle was too tight. I faked it, put it towards my left, and then fired,” Eric recalled.
The goal was Giganto’s second consecutive strike, after he came on to score against Stallion Laguna just a week before. The strike pushed his total to five for the season.
“In all our games, Eric is one of the most influential players from the bench. Every time he comes in, he always makes sure to change the pace and the flow of the game. In less than 30 minutes in the game, a player who’s given a chance like that, and always puts it inside the net, it’s quality,” said Marcaida. “But it’s not only him. It’s really hard work from the entire group. In our last four games, the players coming from the bench have really made a difference.”
After suffering his first defeat as a coach against Kaya Makati, Meralco Manila head coach, Aris Caslib, rued his side’s missed opportunities.
“Kaya wanted it more than our team today. With the average of chances in the second half, Kaya were able to capitalize on those few chances, and that was the main difference. We had more chances in the second half but we weren’t able to capitalize. Kaya had less, but it was quality in the end,” he said. “We still have one more home match [against Kaya]. We value our matches at home. We just need to take the last three points against Kaya.”
With the win, Kaya Makati improves to 41 points in 23 outings, just three behind the league leaders. The team will have a short break, before returning to action on October 14 to face Ceres Negros in Bacolod City.