By JONAS TERRADO
Kaya-Iloilo became the second Filipino club to reach the prestigious AFC Champions League after defeating Shanghai Port, 1-0, in their playoff match held Wednesday, June 23 at the Leo Stadium in Pathum Thani, Thailand.
Audie Menzi’s first half goal proved to be the differece as Kaya advanced to the main phase of Asia’s premier club competition, joining defending Philippines Football League champion United City FC.
The PFL runners-up will face K.League champion Ulsan Hyundai from South Korea, Thai League 1’s BG Pathum United of the host country and V.League 1 holder Viettel of Vietnam in Group F which starts Saturday, June 26, still in the province outside of Bangkok.
A second place finish in last year’s domestic league earned Kaya a trip to the preliminary stage of the ACL, but was later awarded a spot in the playoff against Shanghai Port following the withdrawal of Australian club Brisbane Roar due to conflict with the A.League schedule.
Shanghai Port, currently leading the early phase of the Chinese Super League season, opted to send a mixture of players from its youth and reserve squad instead of its first team.
There was also motivation for Kaya to continue its continental campaign with the looming possibility that the East region of the AFC Cup will be cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation.
Kaya was assured of a slot in Group I of the second-tier competition had it fell short in its ACL bid.