Global Cebu FC beat the Younghusbands-less FC Meralco Manila, 2-1, to ascend to the third spot of the Philippines Football League (PFL) on Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
OJ Clariño netted the match-winner in the second half as Global Cebu improved its record to 7-4-2 win-draw-loss for 25 points, enough to overtake its archrival Ceres Negros FC.
The Cebuanos also handed the Manileños their second loss as the capital club played without Phil and James Younghusband, who are set to transfer to Davao Aguilas FC, for the first time this season.
“It was actually a tough game against Meralco. Everybody thought that without the Younghusbands, it would be a walk in the park,” said Global head coach Akbar Nawas.
“We’re happy that we got the result,” added Nawas, who was not able to field in their new signing and returning player Rufo Sanchez.
Without the services of its top scorers, Meralco failed to reclaim the No. 1 spot, which is still held by Kaya FC-Makati with a six-goal advantage in goal difference.
“It’s the first match without our two key players (Younghusband brothers), who start and finish the game. This situation affects our rotation especially in the endgame,” said Sparks’ mentor Aris Caslib, who remained optimistic despite the absence of the Azkals stalwarts.
“Stepping up is not done on a single match. Like what I have told my players, it’s a process. As long as everyone does their job very well, I think we’ll be able to succeed on it,” added Caslib.
The visitors enjoyed an early lead as Meralco defender and former Global booter Milan Nikolic mistakenly headed the ball to their own goal in the 18th minute.
However, the home side leveled shortly before the first half whistle as Tahj Minniecon pounced on an error by Paolo Bugas then passed a sneaky ball to Simon Greatwich, who sent a low shot past goalkeeper Patrick Deyto.
Substitute midfielder Clariño nodded in a well-taken cross by Jerry Barbaso in the 68th, notching the eventual game-winning goal.
Late in the match, the Visayan powerhouse was trimmed down to ten men as Paul Mulders earned his second yellow card following a rough challenge on Tyler Matas but the Manila squad was not able to capitalize. JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA