Kaya FC-Iloilo, United City restore pride for Philippine football with battling displays

A testing debut campaign for Philippine football in the AFC Champions League continued on Monday as Kaya FC-Iloilo and United City both fell to defeats once again.

Unlike in their recent losses, both teams were able to walk off the pitch with their heads held high after salvaging plenty of pride with their battling displays.

Kaya were first in action on Monday at Bangkok's Pathum Thani Stadium and were widely expected to be brushed aside by Group F leaders and reigning champions Ulsan Hyundai, especially having conceded 12 goals in their first three matches.

Instead, Graham Harvey's charges -- aided by their opponents having to play an hour with ten men after Kim Min-jun's first-half dismissal -- constantly frustrated their opponents throughout the 90 minutes, with the back five and midfield quartet forming two walls that were incredibly tough to break down.

In fact, Ulsan only claimed a 2-1 win courtesy of a stroke of luck and a moment of inspiration, with the opener coming in comical but painful fashion after Lukas Hinterseer's ferocious shot smashed off the face of an unwitting Yoon Bit-garam and into goal, before the latter grabbed what proved to be the winner following an exquisite piece of control.

Buoyed by the numerical advantage, Kaya also showed their fair share of endeavour going forward, and long-serving captain Jovin Bedic would have relished opening his account in Asia's premier club competition with a ferocious strike.

Arguably more impressive than Kaya's narrow defeat was United City's 2-0 loss to Japanese giants Kawasaki Frontale, who currently lead the J1 League by a tremendous 12-point margin around the halfway mark of the campaign.

The reason for that is that, while Kaya still fielded their strongest XI, United City coach Jason Withe boldly decided to give his fringe players a runout with arguably only Mike Ott, Jai Ingham and Mark Hartmann the three that could be considered regular first-teamers.

With talismanic skipper Stephan Schrock absent from the matchday squad, Withe also opted to give a rest to star men Bienvenido Maranon and Omid Nazari but those that came into the starting lineup more than repaid the faith he put in them.

Expectedly, the display suggested there is still plenty for the Philippine Football League champions to learn at this level, as both goals they conceded came from defensive lapses.

But given United City had maintained from the start of the campaign that they were looking to learn and grow from the competition, the likes of Pocholo Bugas, William Grierson and Tristan Robles will all be stronger for the experience.