Kaya faces tall odds vs Malaysians

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – A defiant Kaya FC of the Philippines guns for a king-sized upset against defending champion Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia tonight in the AFC Cup Round-of-16 at Tan Sri Dato Haji Yunos Stadium in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

The Kaya booters make their historic stint in the knockout stage of Asia’s second-tier club competition in the 8:45 p.m. battle and ace striker OJ Porteria said they shouldn’t be content with just being in the Last-16.

“No one ever thought we’d be in the Round of 16 of the AFC Cup but we’re here. And we aren’t here just to participate. We will fight until the end,” Porteria said.

A formidable rival, though, stands between Kaya and a milestone quarterfinal appearance.

Holder JDT Southern Tigers have swept their six assignments in group play to easily advance to the Last-16.  The reigning Malaysia Super League titlist had also captured the Charity Shield and the Malaysia FA Cup trophies in this year alone, sustaining a winning tradition.

“This is a do-or-die for us. We have to train very hard and work on speed, endurance, to try to be at their level,” said coach Joel Villarino.

Kaya is giving up the edge in terms of experience, too, but that shouldn’t stop them from aiming to beat the odds, said team skipper and former Azkals mainstay Aly Borromeo.

“It’s a new experience for a lot of the guys and for some of us who have been playing at international level as well, there’s pressure. So it’s also good that we’re the underdogs coming into this game so you basically say, (we’ve) nothing to lose but at the same time, we’re gonna give our all and do everything,” Borromeo said.

Kaya is one of two Philippine teams that made history by reaching the R16 of the AFC Cup. Bacolod-based Ceres La Salle FC was playing Hong Kong side South China AA in a dispute for a quarterfinal berth at presstime at Panaad Park and Stadium.                

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