Jinggoy Valmayor was the hero for Meralco Manila, as the substitute headed in a dramatic 92nd minute winner at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. Both teams finished the game with 10 men in another physical derby, with Kaya Makati’s Miguel Tanton given a straight red, and the home team’s Milan Nikolic sent off for two cautions. The result effectively ended any hopes for Kaya to finish top of the table, and significantly diminishes their chances of nabbing second.
As the third match in a week for Makati, fatigue undoubtedly played a part.
“It was a really tough game for my boys. Coming from two games in five days, it’s really difficult. So you can see in the game, the players really felt the fatigue heading into the second half,” he said.
“I think Meralco were able to really play their game. They really played physical. They were able to stop our midfielders, especially [Daniel] Gadia, he was able to frustrate our midfielders.”
It was a busy outing for Ref Cuaresma in goal. In the sixth minute he did well to catch a curling Tahj Minniecon effort. 10 minutes from half-time, he raced to the edge of the box and dived at an attacker’s feet to shut down a threat. Later, he calmly held a powerful strike from Alvin Sarmiento. Although nothing spectacular was needed from him, Ref was constantly in action, making stops and catching crosses.
Manila enjoyed most of the chances, and controlled majority of the flow of the game, but Kaya was doing well to limit the hosts to speculative attempts. Right before the break, Manila got their best chance of the half. From a corner kick, they connected with a far post header that was cleared off the line by Janrick Soriano.
The second half brought a little more back and forth. Meralco’s Gadia opened the half with a long range rocket that whistled past the top corner. 10 minutes later, Kaya’s Robert Lopez Mendy was afforded space at the far post from a corner kick, but he blasted it off target. Shortly after, Makati was reduced to 10 men.
Dispossessed from behind by Gadia, Miguel Tanton seemingly lashed out in frustration, earning himself a straight red with 20 minutes remaining.
“The game was very physical. And with the fatigue that they felt, that’s where the frustration of the players came. So, it’s for us to manage, and we’ll see how that goes. We’ll talk to Miguel about it and ask his thoughts about what happened,” said Marcaida on the incident.
Meralco failed to muster any chances with their numerical advantage, however. And in the final minute of regulation, Milan Nikolic picked up his second yellow from a late challenge on Jordan Mintah, equaling the numbers on the field. But just as the game looked to have fizzled out, one of Manila substitutes, Valmayor, snatched all three points.
Daniel Gadia did well to battle and win the ball against Jalsor Soriano and Eric Giganto in the left corner of the Kaya half. With room to cross, Gadia sent an inviting ball into the box. Jinggoy got ahead of Masanari Omura and headed in the dramatic late winner. Jubilation for the home side. Heartbreak for the visitors.
“It was a tough match, but then the players stepped up. We were fortunate to have good substitutions in the end,” said Meralco head coach Aris Caslib.
“For Jinggoy, it’s been a long process. He’s been through a lot, but he has strived to help the team. That’s always been our mindset, to be able to help our team, and deliver even just the little things. Our subs delivered today, so we give their efforts the recognition,” said Man of the Match Daniel Gadia.
Kaya almost managed to restore parity immediately from the resulting kickoff. Jordan Mintah got to a long ball ahead of the keeper, but his goal bound header was cleared away by Joaco Cañas.
The result keeps Meralco Manila in top spot with 51 points from 24 games, while Kaya Makati remains in second, with 47 points from 27 outings. Kaya will now enjoy a long break, before playing out their final regular season match on November 18, against Davao Aguilas.