STALLION-Sta. Lucia made up for a lackluster start behind a strong finish as it dispatched Nomads, 6-3, on Tuesday night to remain in the thick of the race for the United Football League title at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig.
Rufo Sanchez registered a brace which only took the Spanish striker two minutes apart to pull it off, while three others found the back of the net for the reigning UFL Cup champions, who also benefited from an own goal by Nomads to score the rout, their 15th win in 17 games.
More importantly, the Stallions raised their point total to 45, five ahead of defending champion Global, which still has a game in hand.
Nomads stayed in eighth place with 13 points.
Coming off a huge 2-1 loss 2-1 against Global last week, the Stallions surrendered an early goal to Phil Connolly 14 minutes into the game, before an own goal by Bafio Magassa knotted the count eight minutes later.
Stallions skipper Joaco Cañas put the Stallions on top with his goal six minutes before first-half stoppage time, before Lee Won Hyung added to the lead with a left-footed strike 11 minutes after the restart.
Then it was Sanchez who made his mark. First, the Spanish sensation scored on a header off a pinpoint cross from the left side by Jessy Martindale in the 76th minute, before he capitalized on a mishandle by Nomads keeper Russel Pierson to score two minutes later.
Shirmar Felongco, the University of Santo Tomas standout, then scored his first goal for the squad, striking on an empty net following an early challenge by Pierson.
“We were a little tight in the beginning, but once we got to our game, it opened up,” said Stallions coach Ernie Nierras, who was missing the services of suspended imports Hector Zaghi and Matthias Bonhevi.
With the outcome of the match practically decided, Nierras replaced goalkeeper Guilherme Hasegawa with Bruno Santos late in the game.
“I put in Bruno so he can get some experience and be in the line of fire. No disrespect to Nomads, but we took advantage to give our new, young keeper some match experience,” Nierras said.The ploy seemed to work against their favor as Santos gave up two goals, one from a penalty by Magassa and another from Andrew Sam as Nomads made the scoreline more respectable