A SECOND-HALF surge sealed the victory for home team University of Cebu (UC) Erco-Bro Nationals in the opening of the group qualifiers of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Smart Club National Championship yesterday.
After a sloppy start, UC Erco beat visiting Real Marbel FC of South Cotabato, 3-0, in Group D action in the Cebu City Sports Center.
At first it was closely-contested match and both teams had chances to score the opening goal. However, UC Erco failed to take advantage of its chances as its strikers were called numerous times for offside.
Following a halftime huddle by head coach Glenn Ramos, UC Erco seemed like a different team in the second half and came out more aggressive and more fluid on offense.
After a couple of missed chances inside the box Erco finally scored with Dan Villarico finding his mark in the 50th with a beautifully struck long shot 25 yards away.
UC Erco kept its attacking pace and had possession of the ball majority of the second half.
Diomar Carusay tried to make it a 2-0 match but goalie Lance Rey Torinon deflected the shot on target.
As the visitors were chasing for an equalizer, things turned bad for Real Marbel after Dan Rae Aloot was sent for an early shower in the 65th after he got his second yellow card of the match.
In the 74th, Erco got another chance with a penalty after substitute Rene Menchavez was tackled inside the box. Villarico calmly took the shot and perfectly hit it in just past the outstretched arms of Torinon, who managed to guess the direction of the shot.
Menchavez was once again instrumental to another goal. He lobbed in a cross that landed perfectly on the foot of Julius Acre that bounced past Torinon and rolled into the net just inches away from the far post.
Meanwhile, ABC All-Star edged out Magis FC with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory in Group E.
ABC All-Star found themselves trailing in the first half after conceding a goal to Jerney Miaco in the 19th minute.
Late in the match, ABC All-Star scored back-to-back goals in a span of nine minutes for the win.
Jefrey Onada hit the back of the net in the the 70th minute, while Andyboy Ureno found his mark in the 79th minute to steal the win.
Laos FC faces off with ABC All-Star at 8 a.m. today in Group E, while UM-Tagum FC takes on Real Marbel FC at 2 p.m. in Group D.