By JONAS TERRADO
United City FC clinched the Philippines Football League with a masterclass performance, thumping Stallion-Laguna, 7-1, Friday night at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.
Spaniard striker Bienvenido Maranon produced a hat trick as UCFC went on an onslaught after leading 2-1 at the half to secure its fourth win in as many matches, enough to win the title with one match remaining on the shortened PFL season.
The victory also made United City as the first Philippine club to secure a spot in the group stage of the AFC Champions League, the biggest football competition in Asia.
UCFC improved to 12 points, four clear of Kaya-Iloilo which earlier in the day was held to a scoreless draw by Mendiola FC 1991.
Kaya’s latest slip opened the door for United City to secure the trophy and continue the winning tradition of its predecessors in Ceres-Negros, which won the first three editions of the PFL.
Muescan said the familiarity of the former Ceres players who joined the renamed club made it easy for them to win United City’s first silverware in its first competition.
“Matagal na silang nagsasama kaya yung team-understanding, player-to-player at saka team as a whole, nandiyan na. So all you have to do is to identify the weaknesses of the opponent,” said Frank Muescan, who called the shots on an interim basis with coach Trevor Morgan unable to fly to the country.
Mike Ott’s opener six minutes into the opening whistle put United City ahead but conceded a goal for the first time when Ibrahim N’dour struck an equalizer off a long ball for Stallion in the 12th.
The scoreline would last until the 25th when Takashi Odawara produced a header off a cross by fellow Japanese Pika Minegishi,
United City carried the score into halftime before Ott made it 3-1, Maranon produced the three goals and OJ Porteria adding the finishing touches with a long strike in the 71st.
UCFC will lift the PFL trophy on Monday after wrapping up the season backed by Qatar Airways against Kaya.