PROTAGONISTS in the crossover semifinals of the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara were made known on Wednesday following the conclusion of the single-round group play.
Left standing are three-time Philippines Football League champion Ceres-Negros FC and Mendiola FC 1991 from Group A and defending Cup champion Kaya FC-Iloilo and Stallion Laguna FC from Group B.
Ceres (2-1-0) faces off with Stallion (1-1-0) in the knockout semifinals while Kaya (1-1-0) takes on Mendiola (1-2-0) in the other pairing. Both matches will be played on Nov. 10.
The “Busmen” barged into the semifinals by winning their last two matches after being held by Mendiola to a 2-2 draw in the tournament opener.
Ceres defeated Green Archers United FC, 4-0, on Wednesday at the Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa City, Batangas, to officially claim the number one spot in Group A.
James Younghusband, Mike Ott, Charles Barberan and Robert Lopez Mendy scored a goal each in the win.
Stallion, meanwhile, secured a spot in the semifinals by hacking out a 1-1 draw with Kaya at the Biñan Football Stadium.
The Laguna-based squad had a chance to claim the top spot in Group B with a win over Kaya but fell short on it after only managing to tie the defending champions when play concluded.
The draw, in turn, handed the Group B top seed to Kaya, which started its title defense with a 5-0 victory over Philippine Air Force FC on Oct. 26.
Waiting for Kaya in the semifinals is Mendiola, which dug deep to survive the Philippine U22 team to force a 2-2 draw, enough to see it through the next round.
Found itself on the ropes early after two quick goals from national player Chima Uzoka, Mendiola stayed the course and made its way back.
Hamed Hajimahdi scored for Mendiola just before the break to make it a 2-1 count.
Ash Flores then levelled things, 2-2, in the 69th minute.
The teams tried to get the go-ahead but could not complete their respective moves, leaving them to settle for a point each, enough for Mendiola (five points) to edge the U22 team (four points).
Despite missing out on the playoff bus, the U22 team still made a good account of itself in the tournament which it used as part of its preparations for the 30th Southeast Asian Games which the country is hosting beginning later this month.
The winners of Sunday’s KO semifinals move on to the finals set for Nov. 16. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo