The UFL title race has indeed taken a turn of events as Philippine Air Force Phoenix gave a huge blow to Loyola Meralco Sparks' title charge with a 2-1 victory at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium Wednesday night.
The loss to Air Force finds Loyola Meralco needing to win their last two fixtures against Nomads Auction Manila and league leaders Global FC, and also hope that Kaya FC will drop crucial points in their fixtures against Pasargad FC and Stallion Gilligan's FC.
Loyola Meralco, who were missing midfielder Anto Gonzales, began the match dominating possesion in the hopes of an early goal. Davide Cortina almost gave the Sparks the lead in the 18th minute after his long range strike found Eduardo Mercado Jr. flat footed to the line, but his shot struck the crossbar denying Loyola Meralco the lead.
Air Force winger Chieffy Caligdong also plied his way with a dashing run in the 21st minute, only for his shot to be denied by Ref Cuaresma. Substitute Ian Araneta then entered the match in the 27th minute replacing Juven Benitez forming the Air Force triumvirate of Araneta, Caligdong and Yanti Barsales.
Loyola's frustration of not scoring reached it's peak as Jake Morallo failed to convert Phil Younghusband's cross in the 32nd minute.That frustration allowed Air Force to take the lead in the 35th minute as Peter Jaugan found Yanti Barsales inside the penalty area, slotting home the ball towards the far post and into the back of the net, giving Airmen the lead.
The match took a turn three minutes in to the second half as Loyola Meralco restored parity. Kim Hyo Il's right footed shot finally put the ball past Mercado's net in the 48th minute.
Both sides remained keen attacking the goals in search of a winner by also changing their lineups. Loyola Meralco had Patrick Ozaeta for Alexandro Elnar in the 71st minute and Alex Camarah for Mark Hartmann in the 77th minute while Air Force had Jalor Soriano replace Randy Bela-Ong in the 78th minute and Reymark Palmes replacing Peter Jaugan in the 83rd minute.
With both team already settling for a draw, Air Force scored what was deemed to be the dent in Loyola Meralco's title hopes as Jalor Soriano found Reymark Palmes unmarked after Cuaresma was positioned in the near post. Palmes' strike at the 93rd minute caused the Air Force fans in pandemonium as once again Air Force got the better of their bitter rivals with a 2-1 victory.