Reports of Global’s demise have been greatly exagerrated.
Barely making it to the knockout stages after finishing third in Group C competition, the defending cup champions put on a dazzling show of force to send the second-seed Army FC packing, 3-nil, from the tournament Saturday at the University of Makati.
Army finished second in the rankings with an unblemished slate, one of two clubs that kept clean sheets in three matches. It had thoroughly destroyed the competition en route to the Round of 16.
It took Global only 20 minutes to shatter the illusion of invincibility.
Showing the positive effects of a three-day training camp in Laguna in the week off between rounds, Global’s superior pace was something the Army men couldn’t deal with from kick off.
As if Izzo El-Habbib wasn’t already a handful, Graeme McKinnon installed Janrick Soriano alongside him in a two-pronged attack to replace Misagh Bahadoran who was competing for the country in the futsal competition in the 26th Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia. El-Habbib’s feared scoring touch from around the box often drew the defenders’ attention and Soriano’s speed and ability to get his shot off complicated matters. Then there was Jeffrey Christiaens on the left and William Guerridon on the right who both provided support, not to mention the killer cross.
But the match’s first goal came from a long ball following a Global counter. As midfielder Val Kama brought up the ball, El-Habbib raised his hands to mark his position with only Army defender John Cain on him. It was as if Kama painted the target with a laser – he found El-Habbib on the money and the Sudanese striker of Global fired away on one superb touch that blew past keeper Ed Sacapaño. Global 1, Army nil.
Army, whose vaunted attack saw it net 24 goals in three group matches, was stymied. Befuddled. Its midfield totally taken out of the game. Global’s midfield line of Christiaens, Yu Hoshide, Kama, and Guerridon denied the spaces for Army to work its short passing game. So suffocating was Global’s defense that Army had only one shot on goal and it was more of a whimper of a shot.
Global control of the midfield was so complete that Army head coach Major Patricio Bumidang Jr. pulled Roel Gener from the left midfield position to close down the vulnerable left back slot where Cain was beaten time and again.
However, it wasn’t simply Global’s overlapping players that was wreaking havoc. The cup champions repeatedly forced Army to cough up the ball.
In the 53rd minute, Christiaens, who was making his local debut, beat the slow-footed Cain all the way to the box. With Cain flailing away, Christiaens unleashed a powerful shot that Sacapaño was able to parry, but Soriano quickly raced in to smash home the rebound for a 2-nil score.
Even when El-Habbib went out in favor of Angel Guirado, the pace did not slacken one bit. Showing his fantastic dribbling skills and deft touch, Guirado found his teammates for chances or strikes of his own.
Global put the match away for good when Soriano’s speed found him on a clear path toward the Army goal. With no defender within the vicinity to impede Soriano, Sacapaño rushed out. But Soriano expected that and chipped the ball over the Army keeper and into the back of the net for his second goal of the match and a 3-nil Global lead.
The sending off of Ronel Gener for a poor challenge on Kama, who got struck in the chest by the Army man’s boot, compounded army’s woes. The defending champions had 11 shots on goal with three on target while Army only had four, none of which threatened Global’s youthful keeper Paolo Pascual.
“What we worked on during our training camp was our fitness and passing,” said McKinnon after the match. “You saw the effects tonight. We were fresh and full of pace while Army seemed to tire out.”
The Australian coach also paid tribute to his workhorses on the wings in Christiaens and Guerridon. “They were beautiful to watch flying up and down the wings. And Jeff has not played with this team before! It shows his quality.”
Christiaens downplayed his contributions. “Yes, it was good but not good enough. This is the first time I am playing with my teammates. But it was a very good result.”
And the result? Global just took another step closer to defending it championship as they booked a ticket to the quarterfinals where they will play the winner of Tuesday’s match between Pachanga and Navy.