Global FC ends Ceres-La Salle jinx to set up final showdown against Loyola Meralco Sparks
Mark Hartmann fired a brace for Global FC.

GLOBAL FC finally slayed a ghost that has long haunted the squad, dethroning Ceres-La Salle, 3-1, in a nail-biting Philippine Football Federation-Smart Club Championship semifinal showdown that went through extra time at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Thursday night.

In a rematch between the two finalists in the last two finals editions of the tournament won by Ceres, it was Global that emerged victorious this time, taking advantage in the extra session after the defending champions shockingly bungled a penalty attempt heading into stoppage time in regulation.

It was Global’s first victory over Ceres in five meetings.

More importantly, the win enabled Global to advance to the finale on Saturday opposite UFL rival Loyola Meralco, which edged Stallion FC, 2-1, also in extra time in the other Final Four pairing.

Mark Hartmann struck a brace as he finally showed up in a big game while Dennis Villanueva provided the spark off the bench with the go-ahead goal in extra time for Global, which climbed from an early hole, then heaved a sigh of relief following the penalty miss by Ceres.

Ceres, seeking a hat-trick of national club titles, unlocked the Global defense just two minutes into the match when Manny Ott’s slotted home a corner.

Hartmann knotted the count with a strike off a counterattack three minutes after intermission, but Ceres remained poised for another finals berth after being awarded a penalty following a foul on striker Patrick Reichelt in the 90th minute.

But Martin Steuble, Ceres’ top offseason acquisition who was making his debut, sent his right-footed shot over the crossbar.

That’s when Global capitalized, with Villanueva finding the back of the net just six minutes after coming on in the 105th minute, before Hartmann put the outcome beyond doubt with a conversion in the 114th minute.

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“Justice has been done (on the penalty),” Global coach Leigh Manson said. “The football gods were looking down for us. It would have been hard for us had we lost the game through the penalty.”

“The penalty was a scare,” Global owner Dan Palami said. “I thought it was a repeat of the (FA League Cup) final, but I’m glad we came through.”  

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos