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Bacolod romps to inaugural PFF Suzuki U23 title

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PANAAD, BACOLOD - The explosive wind-up between Bacolod and Iloilo never materialized. The finals game of the PFF Suzuki U-23 National Cup ended in a shocking 9-0 rout in favor of Bacolod that was unbecoming of the ages-old rivalry.

The match’s end actually ended at the sixth minute when Joshua Beloya blasted home his tournament-high 14thgoal from 30 yards out that blew past Iloilo’s makeshift keeper Chester Braga who was frozen in his tracks.

Iloilo, needing to overcome a 3-1 deficit at the end of their home leg in Iloilo three days earlier and battling all sorts of issues off field, had the air sucked out of them. Bacolod as coached by Norman Fegidero Jr., put on a clinical display of midfield wizardry, finishing power, and remarkable poise against a punishing Ilonggo defense.

The Negros team hardly missed forward Jovin Bedic who was out on account of two yellow cards as strike mate Aldrin Dolino showed why he was a big game player when he followed up Beloya’s master set piece with his eighth goal in the 21st minute.

Dolino, who plays for University of St. La Salle in Bacolod, was adjudged tournament Most Valuable player for his stellar play in the finals series.

Bacolod, which has punished foes in the first half of play, poured in four goals with two coming from Gino Palomo who was moved up to the forward position in place of Bedic. Palomo’s superb volley from a Beloya cross elicited a huge cheer from the crowd of some 3,000 that flocked to Panaad Stadium to watch the match.

Iloilo played without Rhante Bayquin, Ronald Batisla-Ong, and keeper Wilson Muñoz who were all suspended for accumulated yellow and red cards. With midfielder Shirmar Felongco not a 100% due to an ankle injury, the visiting team dubbed themselves as “the Fighting 12”.

But after the early onslaught of goals, the fight got sapped out of them as they folded.

At the reset, Iloilo switched from Braga to midfielder Jomar Lestingio who was just ineffective at minding the net. Iloilo lost its only keeper Wilson Muñoz to a red card for a deliberate handball outside the box during the first match in Iloilo.

The game took a farcical turn in the final minutes of play when Iloilo purposely allowed two Bacolod goals to go in without challenging the attacker or the shot.

“I told my team to score a lot of goals,” later said Fegidero whose coaching staff tried their best to keep their players shielded from the off-field squabbles.

Defender Lemuel Unabia put the enmity between the two rivals in more blunt terms, “Gusto namin silang tambakan.”

Not since their 11-0 thrashing of overmatched Leyte during the Visayas regionals has the Negros-based squad so thoroughly closed out a match. That they did it against archrival Iloilo is all the more mind-boggling.

Adding to the later onslaught were Palomo (45’, 50’), Ralph Layumas (79’, 80’) who had become the team’s super sub after Beloya was promoted to the starting XI, and Jake Morallo (88’).

Beloya, who is reportedly being eyed to tryout for the senior national team along with teammates Bedic and Dolino, added his 15th goal and was named Best Striker for the tournament.

Teammates Camelo Tacusalme and John Robert Mendoza were also named Best Defender and Best Goalkeeper respectively. Iloilo, which took the runner-up trophy, salvaged a consolation when Francis Gustilo was named Best Midfielder.

“I hope that we are given a chance to show what we can do to play for the national team,” said Beloya who once played with FC Zurich in Switzerland. “It is my dream.”

Bacolod finished the tournament with an 8-1-0 record while amassing 44 goals while surrendering only six. (Rick Olivares)




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