Global Cebu FC downed FC Meralco Manila, 3-2 on aggregate, while Ceres Negros FC hacked out a 3-1 aggregate win over Kaya FC-Makati on Saturday night to set a Visayas Clasico in the Finals of the Philippines Football League (PFL).
With their respective wins, the People’s Club and the Yellow Busmen punched their tickets anew to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup next year.
Rufo Sanchez delivered the tie-winning goal late in the second leg of the semifinals as the fourth seed Global Cebu erased a deficit once again to upset the top seed Meralco Manila at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
“It was a very hard-fought match. We conceded an early goal but it didn’t mean that we have to panic. I knew that we could always get goal,” said Global head coach Akbar Nawas, whose squad also notched a comeback 2-1 win in the first leg.
The host Sparks quickly equalized the aggregate scoreline as Curt Dizon posted the opener just two minutes past the kickoff.
Dizon found Tyler Matas’ long throw into the penalty box before the forward sent a looper that was deflected by goalkeeper Patrick Deyto into the net.
With the Manileños seeming to secure the finals spot via an away goal, Sanchez saved the Cebuanos.
The Spanish striker capitalized on Matas’ clearance mistake then fired the winning goal from a tight angle in the 85th minute, giving Global a shot at the inaugural crown and an assured seat in the AFC Cup.
“When I came here, our goal for the club is to qualify in the AFC (competitions). We did it already so we’re happy for that,” said Sanchez.
Meanwhile, Ceres Negros completed its mastery over Kaya Makati in the return leg at the packed Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City.
Bienvenido Marañon and Iain Ramsay struck in opposite halves as the Busmen enjoyed a smoother route to the championship round and back to the continental club competition.
Carrying a one-goal advantage from its first leg victory, Ceres was already poised to prevail after Marañon doubled the cushion in the half-hour mark with an on-point header on a well-placed cross by Arnie Pasinabo.
Anton Ugarte pushed the visiting Lions to within striking distance as the midfielder scored off a rebound shortly before the halftime whistle.
But Ramsay sealed the victory for the Negrenses in the 78th, launching a stunning lobbed ball from way out that sailed over the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma.
Ceres and Global will dispute the inaugural trophy in the winner-take-all finals while Meralco and Kaya will clash for a possible slot to the AFC Cup in the battle for third on Saturday.