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Cebu scores "home win" at Manila at start of PFL semis

Tahj Minniecon's "away goal" can still shake up the semifinal series. FC Meralco Manila
By Dugout Philippines

MANILA--Stoppage time goals by Wes Dos Santos and Hikaru Minegishi gave Global Cebu a 2-1 victory over FC Meralco Manila in the first leg of their two-legged aggregate-goals semi final on Saturday night at Rizal Memorial.

Manila had scored first with a penalty in the 61st minute from Tahj Minniecon.

Global now has a slim advantage in the contest to reach the Philippines Football League final on Dec. 16. The second leg will take place on Dec. 9, also in Rizal Memorial.

Manila dominated the proceedings in the first half with a clutch of chances from centerback Joaco CaƱas that missed the target. Skipper Simon Greatwich could have opened but his 43rd minute effort sailed high.

A discombobulated Global saw midfield maestro Paul Mulders pick up a yellow card and get subbed for Paolo Bugas with 10 minutes to go in the period.

At the hour Manila had their breakthrough when Global's rookie left back Darryl Regala fouled Minniecon in the box, forcing referee Linjun Talaver to grant Manila a penalty. Having won the spot kick, Minniecon scored from 12 yards out, easing the ball low left past Pat Deyto.

With 11 minutes to go, Global coach Akbar Nawas brought on Paolo Salenga for Regala in what would be a fateful move.

In the 90th minute Dos Santos produced a glancing header off a Minegishi corner past Manila keeper Junjun Badelic for 1-1.

Then just three minutes later Salenga darted down the right flank and offloaded to Minegishi, who knocked the ball in off the inside of the far stick for 2-1.

"I wish I had two Paolo Salengas, one to start and one off the bench," said Nawas afterwards.

"We we're lucky but we never gave up," said Man of The Match Minegishi.

"We lost in the last 15 minutes. We did not manage it well," confessed Manila coach Aris Caslib. "But can we score against Global in the second leg? I think so. Can we defend against them? I think so."

If there is a silver lining for Manila, it's that they picked up a precious away goal.

Despite the fact that Global had to play this match, technically their away game, in Manila because of stadium unavailability in the Queen City, the away goals rule is still in effect. Thus with a 1-0 victory in the return leg a week later, Manila will progress to the final thanks to Minniecon's away goal.

Kickoff for that colossal contest will take place at 7 p.m.

The Sparks dedicated the match to their beloved Assistant General Manager Gino Aguda, who lost his father on Thursday morning after a long illness. The team wore t-shirts in support of Aguda for the protocol to start the game.

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