Philippines Football League
Global Cebu vs Ceres Negros
6:00 pm Saturday, December 16
Panaad Stadium, Bacolod City
Tickets P50, P100, P200, P300. Info here https://www.smtickets.com/events/view/6323
Livestream to be announced soon.
After 7 months of grueling competition, the Philippines’ first-ever fully professional nationwide football league will come to a close this Saturday, December 16. Ceres and Global, two of the most decorated Pinoy clubs in recent history, will lock horns for the inaugural title.
The Busmen defeated Kaya 3-1 over two semifinal legs, while Global bucked a lower seeding to topple FC Meralco Manila in their semis via a 3-2 scoreline. The final is one game for all the marbles.
Let’s take a look at the various subplots and talking points of what promises to be an epic final match.
This will be the second year in a row that the two sides will play in a final match. Last April Global defeated Ceres 3-1 in the UFL Cup final. That match was testy, physical and controversial encounter, with a Daisuke Sato handball not being called late in the game with Global leading 2-0. Misagh Bahadoran put Global ahead for good moments later in what essentially was a two-goal swing. Watch here.
Ceres players were so angry at the refereeing that the main ref had to be escorted off the pitch by other match officials.
Global went on to capture the league as well and play in the AFC Cup this year. Ceres, on the other hand, retooled and recharged, with signings like Iain Ramsay and OJ Porteria.
In this maiden PFL season the teams played 4 times, with Ceres and Global with two wins each.
There are scores to be settled, no doubt.
The Main Men
Stephan Schrock, after a brief spell back in Germany, came back to Bacolod as a proper Ceres player, not just a loanee. He has been scoring goals aplenty all season long, but none bigger than this last-gasp gem against Kaya in the first leg. Watch as the former Azkal makes training cones out of the Makati defense.
The Busmen are missing striker Fernando Rodriguez and midfield point guard Manny Ott with long-term injuries, but the other Spanish goalscorer, Bienve Marañon, is on 20 goals already this season and counting. If he scores twice on Saturday he eclipses Rodriguez’s league-leading total.
Ceres are an offensive juggernaut. Their goal difference of 49 is superior than the goal difference of all the other 3 Final Four teams combined.
But Global has their Spanish hero striker as well, Rufo Sanchez. The midseason acquisition in his second spell with the club scored in the 85th minute of the second leg against Meralco to propel the Cebuano club to the final. See his handiwork at the end of this clip.
Cebu defender Amani Aguinaldo may be out injured but they still have Wesley dos Santos in central defense. The young Brazilian is also an offensive threat with his aerial abilities and free kick skills.
There are other stars on both squads, like Iain Ramsay and Kevin Ingreso for Ceres, and Misagh Bahadoran and the ageless Paul Mulders for Global. But there are secret weapons too. Global features former NU standout Paolo Salenga, who has scored 3 goals in the PFL this year and 4 in the Singapore Cup for Cebu. In the semis first leg, he assisted on Hikaru Minegishi’s goal as a late super sub.
“I wish I had two Paolo Salengas,” said Cebu coach Akbar Nawas after the game. “One to start and one to come off the bench.”
For Ceres it might be 31-year old Arnie Pasinabo. One of only two homegrown Negrenses who get playing time in the outfield for Ceres, Pasinabo started in the second leg versus Kaya. The former U23 national team player from San Carlos still has the technical ability to impact a game. He has scored twice this year as Negros coach Risto Vidakovic has shown plenty of faith in him.
Chips on the shoulders
Vidakovic will not be prowling the sidelines. The La Liga veteran was suspended for some infractions involving dissent about refereeing in previous matches. Ceres has felt hard done by officiating all throughout the season. No doubt the players will want to win one for their coach.
Assistant coach Jo-oc Treyes, who played for Ceres when they won a pair of Smart PFF national club championships, will call the shots.
Global will also have something driving them. They were unable to host a leg of their semifinals because of the unavailability of their home pitch. Both games were held in Rizal Memorial, a fact that rankled many of their fans.
Cebu made a belated request to host the final match but that was denied by the league, who seems to have decided on Panaad earlier.
With both sides sporting “us against the world” mentalities, it could be a really spicy affair.
Plus, Global is playing its second championship match in 3 weeks. In November they reached the final of the Singapore Cup but lost in a penalty shootout to Albirex Niigata Singapore after coming from behind twice to tie. Surely they will not want to lose two finals this year.
The Players Speak
“We can win if we play together, help each other inside the pitch, and show that never-give-up attitude like when we played Albirex and Meralco.” – Paolo Salenga.
“Basically we will just do what we’ve been doing the whole year, which is to just play 110%, fight for each other on the field, and never give up until the final whistle. We will give our best effort and we can live with whatever the result is. We want to make it as simple as that. We don’t want to overthink too much.” – Global keeper Pat Deyto.
“With all that we have gone through this year I am confident we will get the first league trophy. The team has never been more united and more determined to win the championship. It’s that determination that will be the key to winning.” – Arnie Pasinabo.
“They will do ball possession all the time because they have good midfielders and strong side backs. We don’t have to give too much respect to Ceres. We must challenge any situation, whether 50/50 ball or 1v1. We must think abut transition. If we don’t we will lose it’s 100%. We have to be careful. I think that they have a strong attack but DF (sic) are not so strong. (It’s not clear if he meant defense as a whole or a specific defender.) We will make a lot of chances. We have to get score at that time. We know it is not easy but we can do it and we believe it.” – Hikaru Minegishi.
The teams are closely matched, with weapons on either side. But Ceres has the home crowd support and have been the more consistent squad all season long. I could be wrong, but I’ll call this for Ceres Negros by a 2-1 scoreline.
The third place playoff is Friday Night, between FC Meralco Manila and Kaya Makati, 9pm at Rizal Memorial. – Rappler.com
Disclosure: Bob Guerrero is the media officer for FC Meralco Manila.
Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.