By Drew Malihan
MANILA -- Kaya Iloilo is back in the AFC Cup without the need to defend the Copa Paulino Alcantara title.
The Lions booked their way back to the Copa final after a 3-0 win over Mendiola FC 1991 on Sunday at the Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa, setting up a match against three-time PFL champions Ceres Negros.
Kenshiro Daniels, Masanari Omura, and Darryl Roberts delivered the goods for the Kaya all in the second half after a tight defense from Mendiola in the first 45 minutes.
Daniels, who subbed in at the start of the second half for Connor Tacagni, drew first blood after converting a short pass from Jayson Panhay in the 51st minute.
Japanese defender Omura put himself on the scoreboard in the 72nd minute after he caught a ball from a header by midfielder Alfred Osei.
Substitute forward Roberts, who came in for Panhay, put the final nail in the coffin as Daniels kicked the ball from the right flank down to the Trinidadian which goes past Mendiola keeper Dini Ouattara.
The match, however, was physical of sorts as Kaya received three yellow cards in the first half alone courtesy of Osei, Audie Menzi, and Jalsor Soriano.
Mendiola defender Souleyman Ndepe and Kaya's Shirmar Felongco was also down with hard challenges, with Felongco being stretched out in the 74th minute for a potential injury.
The Lions have qualified for the 2020 AFC Cup group stage for the third time as Ceres Negros turned back Stallion Laguna in the other semifinal.
Kaya Iloilo will qualify by being the 2019 PFL runners-up or by successfully defending the cup, depending on the outcome of the Copa final.
But with the Ceres Negros victory over Stallion Laguna, the outcome in the final does not matter now for Kaya Iloilo.
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