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Defending champion Ceres-La Salle came back from a halftime deficit with three goals early in the second half to survive JP Voltes, 4-2, on Saturday to claim the top spot in the United Football League at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Down 2-1 at the break and reduced to 10 men, Ceres came back strong with goals from Stephan Schrock, Orman Okuinaya and Patrick Reichelt to clinch its fifth win in six matches, tying the Loyola Meralco Sparks and idle Global with 15 points apiece.
Ceres, however, holds the lead in the 12-team league due to goal difference.
“I just told the players that our season is on the line in this match,” said Ceres coach Ali Go. “I’m glad that they were able to respond that way. Voltes was just a tough team to beat.”
Earlier, brothers Phil and James Younghusband scored two goals each as Loyola blanked Forza, 4-0.
Schrock equalized in the 50th minute when his cross was deflected by Masaki Yanagawa. Okuinaya put Ceres in front for good with a header three minutes later, before Reichelt sealed the final count with a header of his own in the 54th.
Adrian Gallardo scored his 12th goal in the league six minutes after the opening whistle, but was sent off late in the first half for a dangerous challenge on Voltes defender PJ Fadrigalan.
Voltes gained a 2-1 lead at intermission when William Espinosa equalized and Japanese striker Takumi Uesato by slotting the ball past Ceres keeper Michael Casas.
The Japanese-flavored Voltes remained in fourth place with 10 points. (Jonas Terrado)