CERES-LA Salle kept its fading title-retention bid alive as it overpowered Loyola Meralco, 4-1, in the United Football League on Saturday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Stephan Schrock scored a hat-trick to lead the defending champion Busmen, who hiked their total to 35 points in 16 matches to move up to second spot, six behind pacesetting Global FC.
“It was crucial for us because if we had lost, our league (campaign) would have been done now,” Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic said. “We have three games left and we have to give our best.”
Ceres, however, has to win its last three matches and hope that Global loses two of its last three to supplant the latter at the top. That scenario would tie both clubs at 44 points, giving the Busmen the crown owing to a superior goal difference than Global’s.
Global, though, can clinch the title with a win and a draw in two of its last three assignments.
In that case, the Busmen can settle for the second Asian Football Confederation Cup berth for next year after Global claimed the first spot for the country after ruling the UFL Cup earlier this year.
The Sparks dropped to fourth spot, a point behind the Busmen, but stayed alive for an AFC Cup spot along with third-running JP Voltes and fifth-running Kaya FC, which blanked Laos FC, 8-0, earlier.