Rufo Sanchez scored a hat-trick including the match-winning goal to power Global Cebu FC past Stallion Laguna FC, 4-3, and into the Finals Series of the Philippines Football League (PFL) on Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
Sanchez punctuated his three-goal feat with the game-winning goal deep in injury time as the People’s Club seized the last semifinals seat with 43 points on a 12-7-6 win-draw-loss record.
It was the first hat-trick of the Spanish striker since his return to Philippine football last August.
The also-ran Stallions suffered their 11th loss against eight wins and as many draws though they remained on No. 5 with 32 points.
Yannick Tuason opened up the scoring for Stallion Laguna with a strong strike in the 12th minute but Sanchez equalized with a sneaky header 18 minutes later.
Wanting to break away from the first half deadlock, Global Cebu upped its offensive after the restart en route to Sanchez leading a three-man counter-attack alongside Darryl Roberts and Hikaru Minegishi to steal the lead in the 48th.
The Ernest Nierras-mentored club struck back as Ko Kyungjoon evened up the scoreline with a snappy header in the hour mark before Tuason completed his brace to push the Biñan booters ahead eight minutes later.
Brazillian defender Wesley Dos Santos netted a crucial equalizer for Akbar Nawas’ side, firing a second ball off a cross with one minute remaining in the regulation.
With the match looking to end up in a stalemate, Sanchez delivered the match-winner as the former UFL Golden Ball awardee deftly kicked the ball past goalkeeper Benito Rosalia three minutes into the extra time.
Meanwhile, Ceres Negros FC ascended to No. 2 with a 5-1 thrashing of ousted Davao Aguilas FC at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City
The Yellow Busmen buried all their goals in a fiery first half, including a hat-trick from Fernando Rodriguez, as they improved to a 15-3-4 card for 48 points, one marker ahead of Kaya FC-Makati.
Ceres Negros also kept its unbeaten slate against Davao Aguilas in their four-game elimination round tie, winning thrice and settling for a draw once.
The Aguilas absorbed their 12th defeat as they stayed on No. 7 with 15 points on two wins and nine draws.
JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA