Ceres Negros rallies from 0-2 down, survives Stallion Laguna's endgame push to enter 'Copa' final

By Ivan Saldajeno

BINAN--At the end of the PFL season, James Younghusband vowed he will go all out to add the Copa Paulino Alcantara title to the growing list of his championships.

After Sunday night, he will be one step away from doing so.

Ceres Negros clinched a seat in the final of the said tournament after beating Stallion Laguna, 4-3, at the Binan Football Stadium.

The reigning PFL champ, however, had to stave off a couple of factors before claiming a spot in the championship game.

Despite being the top seed in Group A, Ceres Negros found itself at an essential home field disadvantage as their semifinal against Stallion Laguna, the second seed of Group B, was played at the latter's home.

The venue factor was imminent early on as Stallion Laguna quickly stepped on the gas.

Edris Najm struck the first goal of the match in the ninth minute as he fired a rocket past Jun Badelic.

Six minutes later, Abou Sy scored on a putback off his botched first try to give Stallion Laguna a 2-0 lead to delight of the good-sized crowd.

Stephan Schrock, however, made it a match after he scored with a little deflection from point blank range at the left side of the goal in the 19th minute to put Ceres Negros on the board.

Mike Ott then equalized with a close range goal of his own in the 30th minute.

Schrock then gave Ceres Negros the lead at the 69th minute, while Ott drilled in what would be the dagger in the 77th minute as the club completed the comeback from 0-2 down.

However, Stallion Laguna still put up a valiant move at the dying moments to at least force extra time.

Jhan-Jhan Melliza struck and 85th minute goal to trim the gap to just one and to the delight of the Stallion Laguna fans, who were already silent after Ceres Negros' comeback.

However, the comeback fell short as Stallion Laguna failed to convert in a couple more occasions.

Ceres Negros will face Kaya Iloilo, 3-0 winner over Mendiola in the other semifinal, in the final on Saturday night back at the Binan Football Stadium.

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