|Global nips Kaya for UFL title
Global completed its remarkable rise by winning the United Football League title at the Rizal Memorial Stadium Tuesday night.
Sudanese striker Izzo El-Habbib scored on a header in the second half and Global defended resolutely to come away with a scrambling 1-1 draw against Loyola Meralco to add the league crown to its UFL Cup win last year.
Global entered the league two seasons ago, going unbeaten in the second division to earn promotion before winning the Cup.
Under pressure after Kaya briefly topped the table following a 1-0 victory over Penson Stallion-Giligans earlier, Global got what it needed to finish with 42 points pip Kaya on goal difference.
Nate Burkey fired the game-winner for Kaya in the 42nd minute after linking up with Joshua Beloya at the top of the area.
“It was a tough match and I think we got a little lucky,” said Global manager Dan Palami. “We defended very well and perhaps the football Gods were smiling on us.”
El-Habbib continued his scoring streak with a looping header past Ref Cuaresma in the 65th minute after pouncing on a seemingly harmless ball from David Basa from near the halfline.
But the Kaya faithful was given a glimmer of hope when Sparks forward Kim Hyo-il equalized from close range eight minutes later, setting the stage for a thrilling finish.
The victory completes a remarkable rise for Global, which ruled the second division two years ago to earn promotion before bagging the UFL Cup in January 2011.
Global finished the season on a 14-game unbeaten run, that included routs against Kaya and Air Force midway through the season that greatly helped their cause.
Closely marked by Valentine Kama, Jerry Barbaso and Ange Tressor-Guisso, brothers Phil and James Younghusband, who combined for 34 goals this season, struggled to stamp their class on the match.
Global midfielder Angel Guirado had the match’s first clear chance when his free header off a Yu Hoshide cross was palmed away by Cuaresma in the 20th minute.
The Sparks responded with a 35-yard free kick from Mark Hartmann that bounced off the post. Korean defender Park Min-ho totally missed the goal on the follow-up.
Despite its strong performance midway through the season, the Sparks will only finish third after securing only two points from their last three matches.
Carli de Murga – the most consistent player for Global having played almost every position except goalkeeper – was awarded the Golden Ball – the league’s equivalent for the Most Valuable Player award.
Phil Younghusband received the Golden Boot for finishing as the first division’s top scorer with 23 goals, although the national team standout failed to score in his team’s last three matches, while Kaya’s Saba Garmaroudi was awarded the Golden Gloves for best goalkeeper.
Freddy Gonzalez of Pachanga emerged as top scorer and Golden Ball winner in the second division.