BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines -- Joshua Belayo continued his tournament-long brilliance by tallying five goals in an 8-1 rout of Dipolog to book Bacolod a trip to nearby Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo for the semifinals of the PFF Suzuki U-23 National Cup.
The Filipino American, who was born in Olongapo but who grew up in the United States and Sweden, only recently moved to his mother?s hometown of Bacolod. Beloya, who roots for Liverpool FC, has compiled 12 goals in a mere five matches. An astonishing strike rate of 2.4 goals per match. What makes the feat even more incredible is that it?s only in the last two games of Bacolod that he was inserted in the starting eleven by head coach Norman Fegidero Jr.
Fegidero, who knows a thing or two about goal scoring as he was a fearsome scorer during his heyday, showered his prodigious player with praise: ?He has a great feel for the game and is very dangerous in the and around the box. I think however that his mental toughness is his biggest asset.?
The home team isn?t all Beloya. It has striker Jovin Bedic who has five goals in five matches. Fegidero also has two players who are former national players in defender Lemuel Unabia and midfielder Aldrin Dolino, who were in the Azkals team that played in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers held in Iloilo. Dolino, who hails from San Carlos City, has four goals in the tournament thus far.
The trio of Bedic, Beloya, and Dolino have formed such a fearsome strike team that Bacolod has employed at times an unorthodox 2-5-3 attack formation to accommodate their capabilities.
?Now that we?ve qualified,? said Fegidero, ?our next goal is to top our group. And I will encourage my players to score more goals.?
National football team assistant coach Edwin Cabalida was at the Panaad Stadium to scout players who could try out for the Under-23 team that will compete in the Southeast Asian Games this November in Indonesia.
Word has it that aside from Beloya, he has been taking a look at National Capital Region goalkeeper Patrick Deyto and Dolino, whom tournament Organizing Head Red Avelino describes as ?the next Chieffy Caligdong.?
Bacolod was the first team to qualify for the quarterfinals after it swept the Visayas Regionals that included a 1-0 win over arch-rival Iloilo.
The final day of the quarterfinals in both the Laguna and Bacolod groups all have bearing.
Over at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, Iloilo, Davao and Laguna are all looking to win their final matches in order to qualify for the two available semis seats.
In Bacolod, NCR Team B and Masbate not only need to win their respective matches against Dipolog and Bacolod but to score goals as well. Both NCR and Masbate are tied in points but Masbate is ahead on goal differential.