Pictured: New Kaya striker Pablo Rodriguez celebrates after scoring against rivals Loyola
On Tuesday night’s crucial match between second and third place in the UFL’s 1st Division, it was lower positioned Kaya that dominated 3-1 at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig City. In a game between fierce rivals, the contest was surprisingly one sided, with new signing Pablo Rodriguez proving highly influential. The other match of the day saw Green Archers United Globe’s four-game winning streak come to an end after a goalless draw against Pachanga PLDT Home Fibr.
Kaya replaced Loyola Meralco Sparks as the team closest to League leaders Global after the victory, with 33 points in 16matches – level with Loyola, but ahead on goal difference. With an entire round left to play, Global’s four point advantage at the top is far from a foregone conclusion. Kaya head coach David Perkovic feels, though, that the upper hand is certainly with the current league leaders.
“It’s really for Global’s to lose. Although there’s one whole round left, they’re in control of their own destiny. We’re not in control of ours, Loyola’s not in control of theirs. We have to rely on other teams taking points off Global to get back in the race, so really the pressure’s on them to maintain the results they’ve been getting,” he said. “But if they slip up we’ll be knocking on the door.”
Pablo Rodriguez opened the scoring just before the half hour mark in the 1st period, overpowering center-back Joaco Cañas to head in Richard Greer’s free-kick. Shortly after, Samuel Bonney handled Chris Greatwich’s shot inside the box to give Kaya a penalty – which OJ Porteria duly slotted into the bottom right corner.
“It was a great experience for me,” Rodriguez said after the match. “Loyola is one of the best teams in this league. The first goal, for me, is the most important I’ve scored since I arrived.”
With a 2-0 lead and bossing the game’s proceedings, Rodriguez’s second goal two minutes after half-time virtually sealed all three points for Kaya. The big Spanish striker shielded Bonney from the ball, controlled well before unleashing a low strike to triple the advantage. Loyola hardly threatened to rally back, but was able to bag a consolation goal with Lee Joo Young tapping in after goalkeeper Manuel Saubach dropped a ball inside the box.
The win was Kaya’s third in a row since Rodriguez arrived in the transfer window.
“For me that was the key goal,” said Perkovic on the team’s opener. “They’ve got two solid central defenders and for him (Rodriguez) to win that header and put it on target was fantastic. I was pleased with the boys efforts today. I told them before the game that if they work hard we’ll definitely get the three points because I have a lot of faith in this football team. And we’ve shown in the past that we can beat the so called bigger teams in the league and we did it again today.”
After suffering a second loss in a three-game winless streak Loyola head coach Vince Santos rued another substandard performance.
“I’m very disappointed. I have to accept that it seemed like Kaya had more heart. They wanted this game more, and that spirit translates on the field. We were just talking in the locker room that talent, technique will only take you so far. A big portion of how you get results on the pitch is of course fitness, effort. We weren’t up to par today.”