CERES-La Salle shut out Kaya FC, 2-0, in a grinding battle on Sunday night to move on the cusp of the United Football League crown at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The reigning Division 2 champions turned to Spanish sensations Bienvenido Marañon and Adrian Gallardo to score the hard-earned victory in a physical skirmish that saw 10 yellow cards handed out.
Ceres notched its 12th victory in 14 matches and hiked its total to 37 points, needing only a draw in its last three matches to secure the crown and an outright berth to the Asian Football Confederation Cup next year, right in its inaugural season in the top flight.
The Bacolod representative is nine points clear of second-running Global FC, whose title-retention bid suffered a major setback after settling for a 2-2 draw with Socceroo on Saturday.
Marañon unlocked the Kaya defense six minutes before first-half stoppage time when the Spanish winger scored off a Martin Steuble feed.
Gallardo doubled the lead in the 58th minute, finishing off Manny Ott’s assist to sustain his status as the league’s top scorer with 18 goals.
Pachanga Diliman rolled past Socceroo with a similar 2-0 decision in a battle of cellar-dwellers.
Hamed Hajimehdi and Stephen Permanes emerged the goalscorers for eighth-running Pachaga, which scored only its 11th point this season, while leaving its victim stuck with only four points to show.