GLOBAL Cebu FC drew first blood in its Philippines Football League (PFL) finals series matchup with FC Meralco Manila, beating the latter, 2-1, in the opening leg on Saturday night at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on late goals.
Stoppage time goals by Wes Dos Santos and Hikaru Minegishi gave Global, which played as the home team due to the unavailability of its home field in Cebu, the victory that allowed it to take early control of their two-legged aggregate-goals semifinal series.
Meralco dictated the phase of the contest early, putting itself in several solid positions to score a goal.
At the hour mark, the orange and black finally broke through as Tahj Minniecon scored on a penalty kick stemming from a foul off Global left back Darryl Regala.
Meralco did a good job maintaining the lead and control thereafter until Global made a change late in the game that proved to be crucial in the team pulling off the come-from-behind victory.
With 11 minutes remaining, Global coach Akbar Nawas brought on Paolo Salengas for Mr. Regala, a move that would pay dividends later on.
In the 90th minute Mr. Dos Santos headed home a goal off a Minegishi corner, tying the count at 1-1.
Three minutes later, Mr. Minegishi completed the Global comeback, scoring the winner off a nifty setup from Mr. Salengas to stun Meralco.
Mr. Minegishi was named man of the match after and said credit should also be given to their team’s resilience to come out on top.
“We we’re lucky but we never gave up,” Mr. Minegishi said.
Global coach Nawas, meanwhile, heaped praises to Mr. Salengas for rising to the occasion despite coming on late in the game.
“I wish I had two Paolo Salengas, one to start and one off the bench,” Mr. Nawas said of his game substitute.
Having lost the game late, Meralco coach Aris Caslib shared that the team rued the lost opportunity to get the upper hand but nonetheless still confident that they could bounce back and seize it all in the second leg.
“We lost in the last 15 minutes. We did not manage it well. But can we score against Global in the second leg? I think so. Can we defend against them? I think so,” the Meralco coach following their loss.
The second-leg of the Meralco-Global finals series is set for Saturday, Dec. 8, also at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo