By ADRIAN STEWART CO
Stallion-Laguna Football Club had a bitter start in the 2023-2024 AFC Cup group stage as they bowed to Indonesia’s Bali United, 5-2, at the Biñan Football Stadium in Laguna on Wednesday night, September 20.
Missed penalties by the players of Stallion-Laguna head coach Ernest Nierras doomed their chances of keeping in step with the visiting Indonesians in their AFC Cup debut.
Bali United took the lead in the 27th minute of the contest following a conversion from Ilija Spasojević, but Stallion-Laguna tied the score three minutes later via a connection from Junior Ngong Sam.
The Indonesians regained the lead at 2-1 in the 33rd minute as Haudi Abdillah knocked in a goal from close range.
They had a chance to widen the lead, but Spasojević missed a penalty from a foul by Stallion-Laguna keeper Hayeson Pepito.
For their part, Stallion-Laguna had a chance to equalize a few minutes before the halftime break, but Griffin McDaniel saw his penalty kick saved by Bali United goalkeeper Adilson Maringà.
In the second half, Bali United increased their advantage over Stallion Laguna to two goals, with Mohammed Rashid scoring past the defense of Pepito in the 54th minute of the contest.
The Indonesians went on with their goal spree as Muhammad Rahmat connected his first goal in the 69th minute before Spasojević completed his brace with a 72nd-minute hit.
Stallion-Laguna pulled one back in the 88th minute as Abraham Placito connected a consolation goal, but it was not followed by another hit as Bali United ran away with the lopsided win.
Regardless of the defeat, Nierras is still proud of the effort shown by his players against Bali United as Stallion-Laguna will look to bounce back against Central Coast Mariners in Gosford, Australia on October 4.
“We are not here in the AFC Cup to participate only. We also have a point to prove as players, our team, and especially as representatives of Philippine football that we can play,” Nierras said./ASC, WDJ