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UFL Cup championship "awesome" experience for Paul Tolentino

Ivan Saldajeno
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--It took six years before Kaya once again walked away with a UFL championship by winning the cup final against Ceres.

For manager Paul Tolentino, the club's Friday night feat was more than memorable.

“It’s quite awesome. I can't really explain it. It hasn't really sunk in, but I can’t stop thinking about all these boys who worked so hard to get here. They deserve this,” Tolentino told the press after Kaya's 6-4 (2-2 aet, 4-2 PSO) victory that also sent the squad to the AFC Cup qualifiers.

[Related Story: Kaya wins UFL Cup after trouncing Ceres in shootout]

He also lauded the club's fans especially the SOMK group, more popularly known as Ultras Kaya, for the season-long support.

"To all those amazing Ultras fans, I'm speechless all season long about the way they supported us. To be able to give this back to them was the one thing I kept thinking about all day. I told the players, 'Can we just win this for our fans, please?'” Tolentino raved the Ultras.

He, however, admitted that he got stressed after Kaya lost a 2-0 lead and acting playing coach Chris Greatwich for incurring two yellow cards.

Tolentino bared, "It was stressful on the sideline. We're down a man against a really, really strong team for a good 21 minutes of regular time and then a full 30 minutes of extra time. It wasn't easy. It was really, really strange."

But he expressed gladness that goalkeeper Nick O'Donnell once again saved the day for Kaya with his penalty stopping prowess.

"He's been a winner in shootouts. We always felt confident with Nick when it came to shootouts, and he pulled through again. It was amazing. One save in the semifinal and two saves in the final. What can you say?" Tolentino said of the former Ateneo King Eagle.

On the other hand, Tolentino defended his decision of handing Greatwich the playing coach duties deep into the knockout stages instead of Fabien Lewis, who coached the second round of the league and the first match of the cup playoffs against Nomads.

He reasoned, "It just felt right from the get-go about Chris coaching the entire group stage. That's why we felt right also that it ended with Chris as the one who was running the team in the sessions, coaching the team, and guiding the guys in the knockout stages."