|Penson Stallion FC celebrate their victory in the 2012 United Football League Cup. Stallion defeated fancied Global FC, 2-1, in the UFL Cup Final Monday night at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com.
MANILA, Philippines – Penson Stallion Giligan's has finally arrived in the United Football League.
The dark horse of the tournament came out of nowhere to topple league powerhouse Global FC in a heartbeat – a 2-1 shocker – in the riveting finale of the 2012 UFL Cup witnessed by a large crowd at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium Monday night.
Stallion waited three weeks for this magical moment to happen.
While half of the heavily favored Global were on the spotlight with the PH Azkals' return stint in the semis of the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, Stallion shun away from distraction and used the UFL break to prepare in Barotac Nuevo, known as Iloilo’s football hotbed and home to almost half of the squad.
The result clearly showed in the way Stallion, who finished fourth in the league last season, played cohesively against the 2010 UFL Cup champions and the reigning league title holder.
Spanish striker Rufo Sanchez accomplished his mission here by firing the marginal goal in the 61st minute – a beauty of a header – to power Stallion to its first ever Cup title.
Barotac Nuevo native Ruben Doctora opened fire with a neat finish off a through ball from Korean Jo Young Lee in the 24th minute.
The Stallion celebration, however, was cut short when Global's Misagh Bahadoran lobbed a long ball to a streaking Izzo El Habib, who struck the equalizer with a sweet volley less than a minute later.
But it was Sanchez, one of Stallion's acquisitions from Spanish third division side Internacionale de Madrid CF, who made the difference when Doctora sat out the whole second half with a sprained ankle.
Stallion's second goal was a display of how its mixed culture came together to win this tournament.
Homegrown talent Jovanie Simpron linked up with Korean Yong Jae Pi, whose pinpoint cross found Sanchez for the header that left Global keeper Roland Sadia stunned.
"The first goal (by Doctora) was something we always do in practice. The second was like 'bahala na'. But it was a good cross and the header was beautiful," said Stallion coach Ernie Nierras, who is fresh from guiding the women's national team known as the Malditas to the LA Viking Cup last month.
With the clock ticking down and chances trickling in, Global desperately looked for the equalizer but blew them all.
None of those flubbed chances were bigger than those of Sudanese striker El Habib, who misfired a bicycle kick with less than 20 minutes remaining and another open shot inside the box tipped out by eventual Golden Gloves winner Wilson Munoz in the injury time.
Doctora, who provided inspiration from the bench for the rest of the second half, won the Golden Ball award. The Stallion skipper started the tournament on the wrong foot with a red card against Phil. Army but ended it with a bang by nailing two goals in their 3-1 semifinal win over Green Archers United Globe and the opening goal in the finale to finish with five overall.
Phil Younghusband of the Loyola Meralco Sparks won the Golden Boot award with tournament-best 10 goals, two more than El Habib and Sanchez, who hiked their tallies to eight with a goal apiece in the finals.
Younghusband earlier led the Loyola Meralco Sparks to a third place finish with a 4-1 victory over the Green Archers. Mark Hartmann also came through with a brace and an assist while Younghusband ended up with two feeds and the nail in Green Archers' coffin in the 62nd minute.
UFL will take a break and will resume Feb. 5 next year with Global looking to lick this wound and defend the league title.