STALLION-Sta. Lucia weathered a late Kaya uprising, hacking out a 3-2 victory on Tuesday night to widen its gap from the rest of the field in the United Football League at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig.
Leading scorers Rufo Sanchez and Lee Joo Young lived up to their billing anew while Jeremy Hohn also contributed for the reigning UFL Cup champions, who built a first-half cushion big enough to survive a late run by a Kaya side badly in need of a win in the second round of competition.
The Stallions’ latest victory — their 12th overall in 13 games — raised their point total to 36, now five points ahead of defending league champion Global, which is temporarily shifting its focus to the Asian Football Confederation President’s Cup in Cebu.
Vulnerable in the backline without suspended starting defenders Joaco Cañas and Bervic Italia, the Stallions tweaked their formation and turned to their vaunted offense.
After Sanchez opened the scoring four minutes into the game, Lee and Hohn struck seven minutes apart to give the Stallions a commanding lead at the half.
Kaya, coming off three straight draws, finally showed signs of life in the 74th minute when Alex Obiang found the back of the net, before skipper Anton del Rosario followed up with his own goal only two minutes later.
Last year’s runner up, however, failed to complete the job once again as it stayed in fifth place.
OJ Porteria, who returned from suspension, missed a penalty kick in the second half – before Obiang and Del Rosario’s goals – that could’ve trimmed the Kaya deficit.
“(Kaya) worked hard for those goals. It was a mistake on our part because they kept pressing us, so you have to give credit to Kaya for coming back like that,” said Stallion coach Ernie Nierras, who refused to blame complacency over his team’s play in the second half.
“It’s not being complacent. We were taking what Kaya was giving us. We knew coming in they were gonna play hard.”
Earlier in Division 2 play, Socceroo likewise strengthened its hold of the top spot as it stretched its unbeaten run to 11 games with a 1-0 win over Cimarron.