Just as Kaya FC was about to steal the full points, Global FC put on the finishing touches on a dramatic 3-1 win to secure the coveted runner-up finish at the 2015 United Football League (UFL) Division I action, Saturday evening at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Global responded well in the early part of the match from the pressure that was imposed by the earlier victory of Loyola Meralco Sparks.
The blue-shirts turned to their fast-paced offense to catch the Kaya defense off guard. At the very first minute of the game, the fastest recorded goal in the league was made by Paolo Salenga. The U23 Azkal slotted a loose ball from a missed clearance of Kaya’s defense for the go-ahead goal. The away side kept up this intensity and at the fourth minute, Kaya’s Junior Muñoz fouled a rushing Misagh Bahadoran inside the box, conceding a penalty kick. Izo Elhabib was denied on the ensuing spot kick by Kaya custodian Nicholas O’Donnell; but in the following play, Jason De Jong connected to Bahadoran, who headed it into the back of the net to double the lead for Global FC.
Kaya FC then settled down and put their imprint on the match. Kenshiro Daniels picked off from his stellar performance in their last outing with good passes into their attacking third. The home side had their closest chance at the 35th minute from Jovin Bedic off a pass from Daniels in the middle of the top of the box, but Bedic was not able to launch an attempt. Despite the offensive spell from the opponents, Global FC held their fort against the onslaught. The halftime whistle sounded with the blue-shirts leading 2-0.
At the turn of the second half, Global started the way they executed in the first 15 minutes of the match. At the 50th minute, substitute OJ Clarino found some space at the left flank, but he was timely tackled before he could put the ball into the dangerous area. A buildup at the 55th minute ensued as De Jong connected to Elhabib, who sent the ball to Clarino. The former University of Santo Tomas skipper was once again denied by the Kaya defense.
Not wanting to give up, Kaya again regrouped and turned the defensive intensity to an attempt on putting something on the scoreboard. After winning the ball in the previous play, De Jong was called for a foul on a dangerous tackle on Bedic. To make things worse for Global FC, the former Azkal defender was sent off for receiving his second yellow card. With the man advantage, Kaya played with more urgency and was able to connect on their final third. At the 65th minute, Daniels tried to keep the ball inside the penalty area, but the defense cleared the ball out of danger. Fourteen minutes after, the winger headed the ball to his captain Louis Clark, who was running towards Global keeper Roland Sadia. Clark sent it back to Daniels, only for his shot to go off target.
Nevertheless, at the 83rd minute, the aggression paid off with a goal for Kaya FC. Tishan Hanley found himself with acres of space inside the box, and blasted the ball into the onion bag for his squad’s first and only goal of the match. The pressure from the yellow-shirts did not diminish as they tried to steal some points from Global FC.
The People’s Club sealed the deal in the final minute of stoppage time. Matt Hartmann stole the ball from the midfield, saw Hikaru Minegishi going towards the goal, and then passed the ball to the latter. The Japanese midfielder fired the ball pass the outstretched arms of O’Donnell for his team’s third and last point. The final whistle was sounded as Global celebrated with the 3-1 victory and the bridesmaid finish in the League.
Global Head Coach Leigh Manson was visibly pleased with his boys and attributed the win to raw emotion. “I think the boys showed the kind of spirit that we were missing in some of our games in this season.” Manson was also proud that his team showed character after losing stalwart De Jong, as they still managed to stay composed and end the match with the win. With the way they finished the league, the tactician expressed that, “I think we set ourselves up now nicely for the UFL Cup and the Singapore Cup. We’re on a bit of a roll now.”
On the other hand, Kaya Head Coach Fabien Lewis was optimistic despite ending the league season with a loss. Lewis believed that the way they were the better team in the second half. “My team [are the] better warriors and I am very proud of them.” When asked about what was next for Kaya, the gaffer exclaimed that they want to win the UFL Cup. Being the top-seeded team, his team will approach the Cup just the same as League. He added that, “We want to continue [to] be a footballing team. We want to be entertaining. We want to make sure we have cohesiveness. In a Cup, a level of cohesion is important.”
With the win, Global FC secured the runner-up finish of the 2015 UFL Division I tournament with 35 points off 10 wins and 5 draws. Meanwhile, Kaya FC is currently in fourth spot with 31 points, pending the results of the matches of Stallion FC tomorrow.
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