LAGUNA, Philippines – Dark horses no more.
Mimaropa solidified their position as the country’s newest football powerhouse after they nipped NCR, 2-0, in the 2014 Palarong Pambansa secondary football finals, Saturday, May 10, at the Laguna Sports Complex Football Field in Sta. Cruz.
The Palawan-based crew annexed their 2013 title as they fought their way back onto the top of the podium, finishing this year’s tournament unbeaten.
Against an experienced NCR squad, Mimaropa displayed resilience and composure as they bucked a slow start to keep themselves in the game despite the Big City bets’ dominance in possession in the first half.
NCR – which is represented by the Far Eastern University Baby Tamaraws – however succumbed to the 9am heat and Mimaropa’s constant pressure to allow their foes to catch up in what has been a one-sided game in the early goings.
The defending titlists were then rewarded quickly as Ramil Feliciano once again found the back of the net for Mimaropa, putting his squad on top just five minutes after the break for 1-nil.
Mimaropa went on to control the tempo as they kept NCR on the backfoot with hard-nosed defending and aggressive play up front.
After relentlessly pestering NCR’s flanks, Patrick Valenzuela scored the assurance goal in the 70th that punctuated Mimaropa’s successful title-defense campaign in the Palaro.
In a desperate attempt to contain the surging Mimaropa, NCR committed a useless foul inside the box but Valenzuela’s late-game penalty – which would have put them 3-nil up – was scratched off the books after an infraction.
“We did not expect to beat NCR by two goals. I expected us to be down and doing catch-up or just fighting to send the game into a shootout but thank God, we won this way,” Mimaropa coach Michael June Salmo told Rappler after they celebrated the final whistle.
Meanwhile, Central Visayas bounced back from a penalty shootout loss to NCR yesterday as they won the battle for third against Zamboanga Peninsula, 6-2, at the Laguna State Polytechnic University pitch.
The Cebu-based booters led their Dipolog City counterparts at halftime 3-0 en route to another lopsided win for Central Visayas.
It was the fourth time Central Visayas made it to the Palaro Final Four, winning the title in Tarlac last 2011. NCR, on the other hand, last claimed the championship two years ago in Pangasinan. – Rappler.com
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