MERALCO Manila and Stallion Laguna ended up with a split in their second face-off in the Philippines Football League after settling for a 1-1 draw in a match that was delayed by heavy rains last Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The result was a far cry from Meralco’s 5-1 drubbing in the opener of the tournament against Stallion, with the visiting side showing vast improvement from that beatdown.
Phil Younghusband scored his fourth goal of the season for Meralco after converting a 14th minute penalty, a penalty which he won himself, to set the tone for the hosts.
Meralco continued to dominate possession and had some excellent chances before the half ended.
Then a heavy downpour occurred just right at halftime, forcing a 30-minute delay in the match.
That seemed to have changed the complexion of the match as Stallion came out of the break playing much better and more cohesive than their counterparts.
The visitors started pressing Meralco high on the pitch and it opened several chances for Stallion, including the equalizer in the 60th minute.
Forcing another error from Meralco, Fitch Arboleda linked well with Jess Melliza on the counter with the former timing a perfect feed to the substitute inside the box.
The former FEU standout faced Meralco keeper Ace Villanueva one-on-one in the box and made him pay by slotting home the equalizer for his club.
Arboleda had a chance to win the game for Stallion in the 82nd minute as he had a clear shot inside the box, but Villanueva made a key save, tipping off the shot attempt just enough for it to hit the crossbar.
Despite the draw, Stallion Laguna assistant coach Richard Leyble was contented with the result.
“Ginawa lang namin yung mga dapat namin gawin. I talked to my players, what we trained for, we should apply in the field,” said Leyble in the post-match press conference.
“Ang adjustment namin is to eliminate Phil Younghusband and then press high. Yung Meralco fitness din nila went down,” he added.
It was a tough outing for Meralco after playing its third game in eight days, including traveling from Davao just last Wednesday.
Meralco head coach Aris Caslib admitted that the rough schedule could be taking a toll on them, let alone injuries to key players such as James Younghusband and Conor Tacagni.
“One was the schedule. For us to travel, Thursday early morning then play on Saturday, I think it was too hard on the players,” he said.
Despite the consecutive draws, Meralco still sits atop of the table with 17 points in seven matches. The win, on the other hand, remained elusive for Stallion Laguna as it claimed its third point in six matches.