Despite pushing the home side to the limit once more, Kaya Makati was again denied victory against Ceres Negros. Iain Ramsay’s expertly weighted lob 17 minutes from the final whistle settled what was, at the time, still a wide open semifinal tie. As the ball sailed over Ref Cuaresma and into the back of the net, the hosts effectively booked their place in the PFL Final, and with it, guaranteed AFC football in 2018.
“Mixed emotions,” said a visibly disappointed Noel Marcaida after the match. “For me, there’s a lot of positive things that happened in that game on our part.
“I give credit to my players for really working hard and really showing that great character of toughness, of never giving up until the last minute. I’m sad, but on the other end, I’m happy with my players’ performance,” said Kaya’s head coach.
The game was played at the typically intense pace that’s become commonplace between Ceres and Kaya. OJ Porteria was the first to threaten early on. Found in space inside Makati’s box, the former Kaya player could only fire his effort over. Midway through the opening period, Jordan Mintah came close for the visitors. From a long ball, he slipped in between two defenders, held them off, but could only fire his left footed strike wide of the post. Robert Lopez Mendy then had a free header from a corner kick, but his effort went over the bar.
The first goal came from a sweeping move from the home side. Omid Nazari exchanged passes with Arnie Pasinabo on the right flank, and delivered a dangerous ball from the end line. Bienvenido Marañon got up higher than Janrick Soriano at the back post, and powered a header into the net. The goal made it 1-0 on the night, and 2-0 on aggregate. The lead didn’t last long, though. Three minutes from half time, Roland Muller punched a Miguel Tanton free kick straight into the path of Antonio Ugarte, who leveled the score with a powerful strike.
Kaya emerged from half-time knowing that one more goal would mean progress into the next round. And on two occasions in the second period, they came extremely close. First, Jovin Bedic was guilty of missing a glorious opportunity. He then made amends shortly after by spinning away from his marker and teeing up Mintah with a delightful ball. But with the goal at his mercy, the Ghanaian striker could only manage to head wide of the post. Both chances would come back to haunt Makati, as Ramsay delivered the killer blow late in the game.
The result means Ceres Negros face Global Cebu in the first ever PFL Final, while Kaya Makati will have to settle for a third place match against Meralco Manila. Both matches will be played on December 16, with the venue still to be confirmed.