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Stallions Set Up UFL Cup Final Date With Global FC

I did say that there was little to choose from between Green Archers United and Stallion Penson FC prior to the two clubs’ UFL semi-final clash last night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. That it took extra time and some crucial calls and non-calls for Stallion to book their place in the final merely strengthened that outlook.

I had particular interest in this match because I wanted to see which club would take it upon itself to take the game to the other. The Stallions probably marginally deserved their 3-1 victory over the Archers; and primarily just for taking the attacking initiative.

However, the Archers have every right to feel hard done by after the referee issued marching orders to Lawrence Ikegwuruka in the 66th minute. To be fair, the Archers defender’s lack of discipline was so Third World.

How the referee and his assistants missed the off-the-ball challenge on Christian Pasilan prior to the near-melee from which Ikegwuruka was dismissed, that I haven’t got the foggiest.

Yes, there was an offside call that was called late; but the incident was close enough to the ball when it happened. If it was visible to me sitting on my sofa 100 kilometres away watching the match on television, then it should have been visible to the officials standing a few yards away.

A player just cannot strike out at an opponent whether the ball is in play or not. Thus, it was Bervic Italia who should have been sent marching even before Ikegwuruka lost his head and stormed into the action.

The sending off, naturally, changed the complexion of the match. In fact, it did not take long after the incident for Ruben Doctora Jr. to equalise for the Stallions.

It was a match, perhaps, which further showed that the Stallions are so much more potent counter-attacking from the back – something already shown by their inability to score in their quarterfinal tie against General Trias.

Against the Air Force, the Stallions scored five – but that was because the Airmen went forward gung-ho, giving Doctora and Rufo Sanchez great joy chasing over-the-top balls.

Against the Archers – as against General Trias – the Stallions looked comfortable enough knocking the ball around the pitch but did not possess the creative players to unlock a heavily packed defence.

In fact, despite the Stallions’ possession stats – especially in the first half – the Archers were creating the more dangerous chances. It was no surprise that they actually took the lead through Pasilan in the 55th minute; and could have gone on to claim a famous win were it not for Ikegwuruka’s sending off.

The Stallions’ Nam Yeul Woo was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 93rd minute to send the match into extra time with both teams reduced to ten men. By that time, however, the Archers had been playing a man short for almost half an hour already. Extra time always favoured the Stallions.

It will be Global FC against the Stallions, then, it what promises to be another intriguing UFL Cup final.

Global had earlier defeated the Loyola Meralco Sparks, 2-1, in a match that I could not appreciate because the cable reception was too white and did not get fixed until well into the second game.

Global were frightening! They had nine players in Cebu training with the Azkals yet still managed to defeat the Sparks – who had their full roster – with virtually a reserve team.

I’m sure the league champions will be everyone’s favourite to win the cup; but I will not wager on it. The onus to attack in the final shifts to Global – and that may yet be in the Stallions’ favour. After all, breaking quickly from the back with swift rapier-like inter-passing, the Stallions are not only lovely to watch but also dangerous.

Last season, the underdogs stole the show in a fairy tale final also at the Rizal Memorial. Who knows? Maybe this year lightning will strike for the second time. That is the romanticism of the cup; and a Stallion win can only good for Philippine club football.

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