LOS BAÑOS — Meralco Manila tightened its grip of the top spot in the PFL standings after edging JPV Marikina, 2-1, in the battle of the league’s top two teams at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on Saturday night.
James Younghusband came off the bench to score the game-winner for Manila, which still had to endure playing with 10 men the rest of the way to widen its gap from Marikina.
Manila got into the scoreboard in an awkward manner as Marikina’s Masaki Yanagawa missed a supposed head clearance and accidentally sent the ball past teammate Nelson Gasic for an own goal in the 23rd minute.
Satoshi Otomo, however, avenged Yanagawa’s blunder as he slotted the ball past Jun Badelic, who got the start at the posts with Ace Villanueva training for the SEA Games, for the equalizer five minutes later.
Coach Aris Caslib then decided to give Younghusband, who is returning from an injury, the clearance to play in the 64th minute, and the long-time skipper delivered as he struck a goal to put Manila back up.
Daniel Gadia, however, was quickly sent to the showers in the 76th minute after incurring his second yellow card of the match, giving Marikina a chance to sneak in with Manila down to 10.
But it was Manila that was aggressive the rest of the way.
Manila remains the only unbeaten team in the season with its seventh win over two draws for 23 points.
Marikina, which lost to Manila in their first meeting in Biñan before building a six-game winning streak that put the team momentarily on top of the standings, stayed in second with 18 points.
However, it opened an opportunity for Cebu, which is currently third with 17 points, to snatch the second spot from Marikina. Cebu is set to host Laguna on Sunday night. Ivan Saldajeno/PNA-northboundasia.com