LAGUNA, Philippines – Northern Mindanao cruised past their neighbors CARAGA, 5-2, as they opened their 2014 Palarong Pambansa campaign with a bang, Sunday, May 4 at the Laguna Sports Complex Football Field in Sta. Cruz.
Northern Mindanao banked on hat trick hero Charles Ivan Barbaren as they thrashed the Region XIII booters despite the intermittent rain – not to mention uneven bumps on the pitch – that marred what was dubbed as the Mindanao derby.
But for coach Valentino Ebora, his boys’ three-goal win is just an understatement.
“Medyo madulas ‘yung bola at uneven ‘yung ground. Naiba rin ‘yung schedule kaya ‘di na kami nakapagwarm up. Sayang pinaghandaan pa naman namin ito,” the Northern Mindanao coach told Rappler after the match.
(The ball was a bit slippery and the ground was uneven. The change in schedule also did not allow us to warm up for the game. It’s a waste since we really prepared for this.)
It wasn’t just the weather that they had to overcome coming into this 57th staging of the country’s biggest sporting event, though, as they worked overtime to address chemistry issues with their players hailing from different teams from different provinces.
“It’s really a big challenge for us. We have eight players from Bukidnon, four from Misamis Occidental, two from Gingoog City, and one from Cagayan de Oro.”
In fact, some of their players only joined them here in Laguna but they made up for it by flying in early for training.
“Aside from our two and a half months of training in Lanao, maaga kami dumating dito para makaadjust na rin sa klima.”
(We arrived here early so that we can adjust especially to the climate.)
Northern Mindanao – who made it to the knockout stages last year in Dumaguete – dictated the tempo in the early goings as they made mincemeat of the CARAGA defense, opening the scoring just seven minutes into the match courtesy of U-14 National Team player Jeremiah Borlongan’s magnificent screamer.
Barbaren then doubled their lead as he found himself too open inside the box to drill in the first of his three goals in the 15th minute.
Down by two goals, CARAGA players started to kid around the pitch, shouting to each other ‘habang may buhay, may pag-asa’ (it ain’t over ‘til it’s over) to motivate themselves.
Lady luck, however, unexpectedly smiled down on them as they got rewarded with a questionable penalty which Nheljun Delfin coolly converted in the half-hour mark.
With the rain starting to pour down in the Laguna capital, Northern Mindanao responded well less than five minutes later as they scored a couple of goals – one from Barbaren in the 35th and the other from Niko Jim Lebetaro in the 37th – off CARAGA’s defensive lapses that put Region X three goals ahead.
CARAGA looked bright after the halftime break as Ericson Polon scored in the 50th but they simply could not handle their more dominant foes as Barbaren completed his hat trick 67 minutes into the match for the final score.
Ebora’s wards will face Bicol Region on Monday, May 5, but the first-time Palaro coach admits that they have their eyes set on their matchup with reigning
“Confident kami against Bicol kasi prepared kami. Yung concern ko lang ay ‘yung MIMAROPA being in the same bracket. ‘Yun ang pinaghahandaan namin.”
(We’re confident against Bicol since we are prepared. My concern is MIMAROPA being in the same bracket as us. That’s what we are really preparing for.)
This year’s secondary level football games continue Monday morning in Laguna Sports Complex and Laguna State Polytechnic University field while the elementary level competition will be played in University of the Philippines’ football pitch in Los Banos. – Rappler.com
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