The close victory allowed MP United to extend its reign in the season-ending tournament as the club’s U18 squad has won all four editions of the event.
Jehn Joyner and Tanapon Unsa scored two goals apiece in the title win, working doubly hard on offense as they battled back and foiled Tan Holdings FC’s bid for an upset.
Tan Holdings FC boosted its chances of dethroning MP United after leading at halftime, 2-1. Tan Holdings got the two goals off penalty kicks from Sean Perez and Kautong Omengkar. Perez put Tan Holdings on the board, as he rushed to the ball and was fouled by the latter’s goalie Christopher Aninzo. Perez then connected the penalty kick in the ninth minute with the ball rolling past the right side of Aninzo
Perez continued to be aggressive and paved the way for Kautong’s penalty kick. The play started with Perez on a breakaway, while John Diego Masga and John Taisacan tried to catch up on defense. The two defenders along with Aninzo collapsed on Perez and all four fell on the ground, while the ball was lost, but recovered by Se Yong Kim and kicked it into the goal. However, the shot was nullified, as Taisacan was already charged with the foul for the collision. Omengkar took the penalty kick, as Perez left the pitch limping and the former gave Tan Holdings its second goal.
Omengkar’s shot came nine minutes after MP United also scored off a penalty kick in the 25th minute. Unsa drained the penalty kick off Mii Tekopua’s foul on Joyner. Joyner was going for a header after a corner kick from Daniel Lim when Tekopua was caught pushing the former.
The physical plays continued in the remaining minutes of the first half and Tan Holdings went on to keep the shaky lead, as MP United failed to cash in on two free kicks and could not find its offensive tempo yet.
The rhythm came in the second half after a long pep talk with coach Norman Del Rosario at halftime, as the entire team went out of the complex.
“I told them that we’ve been to a lot of situation like this and we managed to overcome the deficit. I told them to consider the deficit as a challenge to work harder and play more as a team. They responded and showed so much mental toughness out there,” Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario added that in the first half when Tan Holdings kept attacking, his players wereconstantly looking at him at the bench.
“After Tan Holdings scored its second goal and my players looked at me I gave them the nod to tell them it’s ok. We just have to stay compose and execute the game plan,” Del Rosario said.
MP United followed the game plan early in the second half with Unsa breaking away from three defenders and kicking the ball, which headed toward the right corner and rolled past the hands of Tan Holdings goalkeeper Joshua Hark Galarion in the 48th minute for the second deadlock in the exciting finale.
Joyner then shattered the standoff two minutes later with his looping shot as he got away from his much shorter defender—Mareko Tekopua—with a hop-skip and unloaded his first goal. Joyner made it two in a row, as he used his height advantage anew to convert a header off a pass from Kennedy Izuka in the 68th minute to give MP United more cushion, 4-2.
Now suddenly down by two, but definitely not out, Tan Holdings kept its title bid alive when Perez scored his second goal—off a free kick in the 78th—with the ball going over three MP defenders and looping into the top right post with Aninzo failing to catch it.
Tan Holdings then had two chances to force a tie, but both Emmanuel Aniana and Perez were not in proper position when they went for the headers and missed. The two Tan Holdings FC attempts came in the last 10 minutes, while MP United worked the ball around to run down the clock and preserve the lead and the win.