CERES-LA Salle shrugged off a late charge by Loyola Meralco as it rolled to a 5-2 victory on Saturday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium to grab the solo lead in the United Football League.
Adrian Gallardo pumped in a hat-trick as he formed a lethal one-two punch with Patrick Reichelt, who dished out two assists and a goal, as Ceres built an early lead before withstanding a second-half uprising by the Sparks.
Ceres thus dislodged Kaya FC from the top of the 10-team standings as it remained undefeated after seven matches for 21 points, three ahead of Kaya and its victims.
Gallardo unlocked the Loyola defense 19 minutes into the match as the Spanish striker scored on a nifty strike past Enrique Montserrat, before Reichelt doubled the lead three minutes ahead of first-half injury time.
After Martin Steuble gave Ceres a commanding three-goal lead with a long-range conversion off a free kick in the 67th minute, the Sparks scored two quick goals courtesy of Phil Younghusband in the 68th and English defender Adam Mitter four minutes later to trim the gap.
That set the stage for Gallardo conspiring with Reichelt, who fed the Spaniard for a header in the 79th, before the Azkals star duplicated the effort with another assist to the league’s leading scorer three minutes into stoppage time.