Kaya Makati turned a flat first half performance into a second half bombardment, but could not deny Meralco Manila a 2-1 victory at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Tahj Minniecon’s goals either side of the break ensured the home side returned to the top of the Philippines Football League standings. Milan Nikolic’s own goal kept the margin close.
“I think my players really did well in the second half. It just saddens me because, the players really worked hard heading into this game. And you can see how they performed in the second half that they really wanted to get the three points,” said Kaya head coach Noel Marcaida.
Manila opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with Minniecon firing in from a breakaway. Alfred Osei’s misplaced pass went directly to Curt Dizon, who was quick to set the Australian free. Kenshiro Daniels came closest for Kaya in the opening period, but the first half ended with Meralco in front. After the break, Makati turned up the heat.
With the entry of Miguel Tanton and Eric Giganto, Kaya had Meralco on the back foot. In the 64th minute, Daniels spotted an overlapping Tanton. Miguel’s cross found Jordan Mintah right in front of goal, but his header went straight to the keeper. The equalizer eventually came 14 minutes later. Robert Mendy broke free from his defender off a throw in, and his cross was bundled in by Meralco’s Nikolic. The deadlock lasted only 6 minutes, though, as Masanari Omura collided with Curt Dizon inside the box to give away a penalty. Minniecon converted the spot kick with ease.
As expected in a heated rivalry, the Metro Manila derby was not without some controversy, particularly as Kaya chased the game with five minutes remaining in regulation. The first incident came in the 87th minute. Tanton’s ball into the box was headed by Meralco’s Anto Gonzalez into the path of Mintah, who duly smashed the ball across goal and into the net. When the celebrating Ghanian reached the sideline, though, the flag was up for offside.
Marcaida asked when pressed about the incident, “Is it really offside when the opponent’s defender is the last man to touch that ball?”
A minute later, Robert Mendy missed a golden opportunity. All alone on a breakaway, the striker scuffed his effort well wide. In the first minute of added time, Eric Giganto looked to have been clipped inside the box, but the referee waved away the penalty appeals.
When asked about the play, again Noel left it for others to decide.
“The referee can only decide based on what they see. And at the end of the day their decision is always final,” he said. “You’ve watched that incident. I’ll leave that question again to you. Did that deserve to be a penalty?”
Although impressed by the fight showed by his player, Marcaida rued the rather disappointing display in the opening period.
“We have to play two halves of quality football. That’s how the game goes. We didn’t perform properly as planned, but we were able to adjust in the second half. We have to play two 45 minutes of quality football to get the result,” he said.
The victory sends Meralco Manila back to the top of the standings with 30 points. Meanwhile, Kaya Makati are now in third with 27, a point behind Global Cebu. With the defeat, Makati also had a seven-game unbeaten streak snapped, and will look to bounce back against Ceres Negros next week, at the University of Makati Stadium.