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Goalless stalemate with Pahang concludes Global’s AFC Cup campaign

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At the end of their first group game in the AFC Cup, it was hardly imaginable that Global FC’s last match in the group stage will mean a lot as they were handed a 6-1 thumping by South China AA at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium back in late February. Yet it was the case earlier tonight when the Philippine champions met their Malaysian counterparts 32 kilometers north of the vintage stadium where Global opened the tournament. The Philippine club knew that only a win will make them progress into the knockout rounds, something not far-fetched if their previous meeting in Kuantan is taken into account. A goalless stalemate it was, although Pahang evidently played more comfortably in the grounds they call home. In the reverse fixture, the same can be said with Global being the more familiar team despite playing only two games in the newly opened Philippine Sports Stadium, known as the biggest in the Philippines as far as seating capacity is concerned. Fittingly, it played host to the biggest game in the history of Philippine club football that ended the same way it did in Malaysia two months ago: A 0-0 scoreline which spelled the exit of the Philippines’ lone representative in AFC club football competitions.

The hosts were eager to find the back of the net as soon as possible and their first chance arrived in the opening two minutes of the match. Mark Hartmann threaded a pass to Misagh Bahadoran, who intended to swing his first touch to the running Dennis Villanueva. Unfortunately, Pahang goalkeeper Khairulazhan Bin Mohd Khalid read it well to prevent Bahadoran’s pass from getting to Villanueva. Five minutes later, another chance fell to Global. Hartmann picked up a misplaced pass inside the attacking third. With possession, the forward moved closer to the goal but he struck his shot wide to the left of the far post. A similar opportunity to score took place in the 13th minute, this time involving Bahadoran. The Global skipper stripped the ball away from Damion Stewart and went inside the box. On his way, Bahadoran had a good look at goal but Pahang captain Mohd Razman Bin Roslan timed his challenge well to deny the Fil-Iranian a shot that would have made it 1-0 for Global.

Overall, the visitors played defensively but it did not stop them from producing chances. After all, a goal for them would have required Global to score twice inside a gradually fading period. Pahang, however, were kept at bay by the disciplined Global backline. The nearest they got in the first 45 minutes was off a corner drilled in by Azammudin Bin Mohd Akil at the 21st minute, which created a couple perilous moments. To Global’s rescue were fullbacks Daisuke Sato and Jerry Barbaso who timely cleared the ball from danger.

Midway through the opening half, Global enjoyed most of the possession but were unable to crack past Pahang’s resolute defending. The closest the reigning United Football League champs got to scoring came at the 44th minute. Hartmann’s shot was saved by Azhan and Stewart just got to the ball before Villanueva got to poke the ball into an unguarded net. For what appeared to be a half filled with Global’s chances, it was nearly a period when Pahang nabbed a goal against the run of play. Villanueva fouled Matias Conti near the edge of the box in added time but the free kick taken by Hafiz Kamal sailed over Patrick Deyto’s goal. Halftime soon arrived with Pahang the happier of two teams as the score remained at 0-0.

After the interval, Pahang seemed to have altered their game plan. After doing well in frustrating Global defensively, the Malaysians appeared more determined moving forward. They finally tested the relatively idle Deyto at the 56th minute, but Azammudin’s shot was palmed away by the Philippine international. Prior to that, the team in yellow registered another shot attempt courtesy of Villanueva. The midfielder, having collected a well-targeted pass of Bahadoran from the byline, was stopped by Azhan inside the six-yard box just three minutes into the second half. The 23-year-old Filipino midfielder had another chance to give his team the lead at the hour mark. After Paolo Bugas’ cross was cleared by Stewart, Villanueva attempted a half-volley that flew just inches over the crossbar. In the final half-hour of the match, Pahang sought for the goal that they believe would have killed the match for good. Conti and Fauzi had a go but neither was clinical enough to find a way past Global’s prepared defense.

With time not on their side, Global became more desperate in their search for a breakthrough goal. Fourteen minutes before time, Hartmann penetrated from the left flank but there were no teammates of his to receive the low cross he sent from inside the box. In the final six minutes plus added time, Global bombarded Pahang with waves of shot attempts that were either too soft or off the mark. The most notable of all players who were keen to win the match for Global down the stretch was Richard Talaroc. He replaced center back Amani Aguinaldo and was deployed up front to boost Global’s chances of scoring. Registered as a fullback, the 20-year-old substitute was unfortunate not to convert any of his three good chances in added time. As soon as Azhan’s goal kick deep in stoppage time landed on the pitch, Chinese referee Tan Hai blew the final whistle that signalled the end of Global’s participation in the AFC Cup.

Leigh Manson, Global’s coach, felt immense pride with his players who played not only for Global FC but for the whole country as well. “I think if we’ve been sharper in front of goal, we would have gotten the result that we were all wanting,” he added, noting that Global played superbly but were unlucky not to get any goals out of their efforts. “They’ve shown they’re good enough to play at this level. Pahang are a very, very good team–to emphasize, top of the Malaysian Super League–and we’ve had two draws, home-and-away, and we should have won this one,” Manson assessed of his team. Wearing the armband, Bahadoran agreed with their Scottish mentor. “We had ball possession and everything else. It’s just that the finishing was not there. We had many chances in front of the 18-yard box but unfortunately we did not finish,” he said with a hint of melancholy.

Gracious in victory, Pahang Coach Zainal Abidin Bin Hassan praised his team’s opponents for giving Pahang a very tough time. “The pressure Global gave was too much and too high. Credit to Global who played wonderful football. It made us work harder and harder,” he commented with relief. After seeing out a tumultuous affair in the Philippines, Pahang will travel to Indonesia to face Persipura Jayapura in the round of 16–their prize as Group G’s second best team.

As the third-placed team, Global have bowed out of the competition. Their exit can be summed up as a reminder that the Philippines is not yet the best footballing country in Southeast Asia. The progress Dan Palami’s team made inside a short span of time though signifies how big football can be in the Philippines, and how the country can become a football powerhouse in the region. “We gave them a good game. Everyone saw that Global are capable of playing in the AFC Cup,” thought Bahadoran who sees football’s rapid rise in the country as one of the fastest in the world. For now, Global will settle for third but will surely look forward to the next edition they will be competing in, which they hope will be as soon as next year.

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ABL

Joshua Munzon, Westsports snap Saigon’s streak in highly emotional contest

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Photo by ASEAN Basketball League

Entering Wednesday night’s game, Mikey Williams and the Saigon Heat were on a high, slaying the winning streaks of Hong Kong Eastern and Nanhai Kung Fu. However, Joshua Munzon and the Westsports Malaysia Dragons had other things in mind, keeping the Heat winless at the MABA Stadium, 91-87.

In his fourth game since returning to the Dragons, Munzon filled up the stat sheet, tallying 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks.

Besides putting up the numbers, the athletic swingman from California helped limit reigning Heritage Player of the Week Williams to his worst game so far in the ABL. Averaging 27.33 points, 6.67 assists, and 6.0 rebounds prior to this game, Williams went field goal-less against the Dragons, missing all 11 of his attempts. The Filipino-American floor general was able to dish out eight assists and grab five caroms.

Westsports led by as much as 11 points in the final frame, 82-71, after Munzon found Marcus Marshall for a triple with 4:59 remaining. Behind World Imports Akeem Scott and Maxie Esho, the Heat stormed right back but was answered by a long bomb by Munzon to keep them at bay.

Marshall and Scott figured in a shootout to close out the game but in the end, the hosts were still able to etch out their second straight victory.

Marshall finished the game with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Dragons while Scott’s 44-point game went for naught.

After the emotionally charged contest though, few unkind words were exchanged by the officials of both squads that almost resulted into a brawl. Fortunately, things did not escalate beyond that.

In the video, Munzon was also seen shoving a Saigon player to try and pacify the situation. The league is currently investigating the post-game incident.

With the win, Westsports Malaysia raised its record to 3-4 while dropping Saigon to 4-3.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Edward Kelly honored to fight alongside brother Eric

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Eric and Edward Kelly lived under the same roof for years in their hometown of Baguio City when they were young and shared the same burning passion in martial arts.

Growing up in the small town community of San Tomas Central, located within the city limits of Baguio, Eric and Edward did not always get along with one another as the two fought all the time, sometimes even resulting in injury.

“We were not that close before. We always fought. In short, Eric and I were headaches to our parents,” Edward recalled in jest.

“But of course, things change when you grow up and mature. We now appreciate each other’s company.”

Fortunately, when the brothers entered high school, Eric discovered martial arts, and everything would change for both of them.

Edward paid attention to the growing accolades of his older brother and was heavily motivated by it.

“I noticed after he started martial arts that it taught him the discipline not to fight me as a brother. Instead, he started giving me advice through what he had learned,” he bared. “I also joined martial arts because it teaches you discipline, and a lot of other positives, too.”

Years later, both men have made remarkable runs as outstanding martial artists in their respective professional careers.

Eric is widely regarded as one of the best homegrown martial arts athletes to come out of the Philippines.

A Wushu practitioner who combines solid striking techniques with high-level grappling skills, Eric owns nine scintillating submissions and one knockout out of 12 total career victories.

Eric’s most impressive showing to date came in a submission win over Rob Lisita in July 2014, a performance that earned him the USD 50,000 ONE Warrior Bonus.

Meanwhile, Edward is considered as one of the best and brightest featherweight prospects to emerge from the well-established martial arts scene in the Philippines.

With a complete striking and grappling skill set, Edward brings Team Lakay’s world-renowned Wushu to center stage as he showcases his impeccable skillset inside the ONE Championship cage.

In addition, the younger Kelly has won three of his last four bouts under the ONE Championship banner, all by spectacular finish.

The Kelly brothers get a rare chance on Friday, January 26 as the siblings will compete side-by-side when ONE Championship holds its first of the four scheduled events in the country for 2018.

Eric squares off with Brazilian standout Rafael Nunes on the undercard of ONE: Global Superheroes, while Edward crosses paths with Cambodia’s Meas Meul in a three-round featherweight clash.

It is the first time both of them will be featured at a ONE Championship event together, and Edward plans to make it a night they will never forget.

“I am so excited because finally, it’s going to happen. It marks the first time that I will compete alongside my older brother. Surely, it’s going to be a memorable night for the both of us,” he said.

“We have the same aim of winning. So making it two for two on this card will make this extra special.”

As Eric seeks to get back on the winning track at the expense of Nunes, Edward is likewise looking to move forward in his career after getting his three-bout winning streak snapped by American stalwart Emilio Urrutia in August 2017.

In his next cage outing, Edward goes up against Meul, a undefeated promotional newcomer with six wins to his credit.

“My coaches has prepared me well for this. I am not going to disappoint my team and my country when I enter that cage on 26th of January,” Edward assured. “I don’t want to let my countrymen down this time. I am here to give them a great bout.

“And of course, win the bout in impressive fashion for them.”

Edward has no qualms if he has to go full three rounds with Meul, but he admitted that his sights are always set on securing the finish.

“I am looking to dominate him for three rounds. But hopefully, I can get the finish,” he vowed.

“A finish will be the perfect way to tell the world that I am back.”

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Basketball

Roger Pogoy churns best performance against former teammates

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Prior to Wednesday, all eyes were on the TNT Katropa-Blackwater Elite face-off, with many curious to see how last season’s Rookie of the Year Roger Pogoy would fare against his former FEU teammates Mac Belo and Raymar Jose.

And as the final buzzer sounded, the 25-year-old Pogoy had reigned triumphant over his close pals, getting away with a conference-best performance as a bonus.

The six-foot-two Cebuano sniper fired a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals, to lead the Texters to a skid-ending, 92-83 victory at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“Must-win talaga namin ‘to para makabawi kami, kasi 1-2 na yung standing namin (before the game) eh.

“Buti na lang maganda yung nilaro ko,” said Pogoy, who was just averaging 11.3 points in the past three games.

But Pogoy tipped his hat to the much taller Elite, who enjoyed plenty of time in the driver’s seat in the first half, until the Katropa found their groove in the third canto — highlighted by a 16-3 rally that put them ahead, 60-53.

“Malakas yung Blackwater eh, tapos ang lalaki nila kaya mahirap mag-drive, mahirap pumasa kasi naagaw nila,” said Pogoy. “Buti na lang naka-adjust kami nung second half. Hindi kami nagmadali, dinahan-dahan namin.”

Aside from his own outing, Pogoy is thankful that they were able to address their fourth quarter woes when facing the Elite — the issue that hounded them in their 76-88 loss to the San Miguel Beermen last Saturday in Iloilo.

TNT had actually been mere steps away from melting down — again — against Blackwater, no thanks to a 20-9 run that wiped out their 17-point lead to just six,

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Basketball

With Nash Racela knowing his tendencies, Mac Belo limited to poor shooting

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Prior to Wednesday, Blackwater Elite’s young star Mac Belo was on a roll early in the 2018 Philippine Cup, averaging exactly 20 points on 42.6 percent shooting in their games against Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Ginebra.

But, as they say, good things must come to an end.

Belo, despite having 13 rebounds, was held to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as the Elite bowed to TNT Katropa, 92-83 — a sour loss knowing that they’re coming off huge 94-77 win against Ginebra last Friday.

“Bukol,” said Belo in jest of his poor outing after the match. “Big test para sa’min kasi yung TNT talagang isang de-kalibreng team dito sa PBA.

“Talagang pinaghandaan nila kami, at gustong-gusto nila manalo.”

It also did not help that the Katropa’s head coach, Nash Racela, was his coach in FEU Tamaraws for three years — a relationship brightly highlighted by a championship run in the UAAP Season 78 back in 2015.

“Siyempre alam niya yung mga tendencies ko. Matagal ko siyang coach sa FEU,” said the 6-foot-4 forward.

“Sa akin naman, kailangan ko pa matuto sa ganun, kung anong mga defense binabato niya sakin. Kailangan ko pang pag-aralan.”

But for Belo, the loss was more than his own showing. The 25-year-old lamented his and the Elite’s lapses on defense, which was encapsulated by the second half collapse they had that allowed TNT to come back and steal the win.

“Medyo marami lang kaming lapses especially sa defense namin,” said the sophomore forward, as they allowed TNT to shoot 41.6 percent from the floor. “Maraming mga miscommunication na kailangan pa namin i-work.”

Belo and the Elite are now set to move on from this bitter defeat, as they all shift their sights in their match this Friday versus GlobalPort Batang Pier. For the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart, it is already a must-win for them.

“Kailangan namin ng rest ngayon kasi back-to-back games kami. We need to win sa Friday para okay sa’min,” said Belo. “Kailangan din namin paghandaan kasi galing sila sa win.

“Kailangan namin i-double yung effort namin.”

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