Global clinched the United Football League First Division title after salvaging a 1-1 draw with Loyola Meralco on Tuesday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Izo El-Habbib once again outshone his Philippine Azkals teammates as the Sudanese striker delivered anew for Global, scoring in the 65th minute to give his club the lead.
Despite the Sparks equalizing 11 minutes later with a Kim Hyo Il goal off a Mark Hartmann assist, Global did enough in the remaining minutes to preserve the score.
Global’s win negated Kaya’s victory against Stallion earlier. Both clubs finished with 13-3-2 win-draw-loss cards for 42 points, but Global won the title with a 19-goal difference for the season.
The Sparks showed more aggressiveness in the first half, but could not convert any of their attempts. Hartmann actually found the back of the net in the second half but was called offside.
Global had won the single-elimination UFL Cup last year.
“But this is different. This is the league,” Global manager Dan Palami said. “Credit goes to all the teams who played in the first division. They really gave us a hard time. It was a hard season for us.”
The club had to endure early setbacks as it lost twice in the first round of eliminations.
“For a while, I thought this was it. I thought we really had to dig deep for us to win the title,” Palami said. "But credit to my players for bringing their A-game when it mattered.”
The squad entered the season expected to be just a contender for one of the top four spots, but late-season blunders by the favored Sparks allowed Global to gain the upper hand in the standings.
“We were prepared to be bridesmaids again,” Palami admitted. “But I’m glad we had enough spirit to just do our best.”
“We’ll try to hold on to the beautiful trophy for as long as we can,” Palami said. “But I know the other teams will be preparing hard for the next season. So that’s also what we have to do.”
Despite El-Habbib giving his team the goal, teammate Carli de Murga was given the Golden Ball, equivalent to a Most Valuable Player award.