Still champs: United City FC bags 2020 PFL title

Despite still having one more game in the 2020 Philippine Football League (PFL), United City FC have wrapped up the league title with a 7-1 triumph over Stallion Laguna FC on Friday, November 6, at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.

This is the club's first championship under its new name. It was formerly know as Ceres-Negros FC and was the PFL champion in the last 3 seasons.

The rebranded club is guaranteed a return to the next AFC Champions League, which has yet to be finalized as the pandemic suspended the regional cup tournament.

After the match, United head coach Frank Muescan shared that, “the goal against us really makes us more aggressive because the plan is to seal this [win] for the [AFC] Champions League.”

“Thank God we got the win and we became the champions tonight,” he added.

Veteran striker Bienvenido Marañon shined in the drubbing as he bagged a second half hat-trick for United. He launched two powerful strikes at the 58th and 66th minutes to get a brace, then buried his third goal against a rushing goalie at the 74’ mark.

In the 6th minute of the match, Mike Ott opened the scoring for United as he slipped inside the Stallion defense and calmly finished Marañon’s lofted through ball.

Towering midfielder Takashi Odawara restored United’s lead at the 25th minute with a header that was way out of keeper Hayeson Pepito's reach. The goal was a product of a short left corner kick as team captain Stephan Schröck received the ball back from Manny Ott and passed it to Hikaru Minegeshi, who then whipped the ball inside the box for the assist.

United continued to punish Stallion as Mike Ott quickly pounced in to convert a rebound of brother Manny’s attempt.

OJ Porteria was United’s fourth different scorer for the match against Stallion as he dribbled and shot inside the box after receiving a pass from Mike Ott at the 71st minute.

Minutes before the first 45 minutes ended, Porteria and Marañon each had an attempt to add to their team’s lead, but Pepito produced a superb save from the former’s close range shot, while the latter’s header from Schröck’s free kick went way over the bar.

Stallion had a promising first half performance bannered by a 12th minute equalizer from striker Ibrahim N’Dour, which is also the first goal that United had conceded in the PFL bubble.

They looked to postpone United’s title celebrations, but they faltered after halftime and conceded 5 goals to a championship-seeking squad.

United City's latest title came early after Kaya FC Iloilo drew Mendiola FC 1991 and dropped two valuable points earlier on Friday.  

The 2020 PFL champion now has 12 points with a +23 goal difference, while rival Kaya has 8 points with a +2 goal difference. Both teams have played 4 games each.

On what fans hoped to be a title-clinching matchup, both squads will cap their PFL bubble campaigns on Monday, November 9, 8 pm, at the same venue.

Stallion, meanwhile, has two more games remaining to finish its 2020 PFL season as it takes on the Azkals Development Team and Mendiola respectively next week. – Rappler.com