NO one is pulling away from the rest of the United Football League field.
Global FC made sure the UFL title race remained tight as it held off league-leading Loyola Meralco, 3-2, in a marquee rematch that lived up to its billing on Saturday night at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
The second-running side actually squandered a huge lead, but showed tremendous character down the stretch to pull off the hard-earned victory.
Instead of being seven points behind the Sparks, Global moved within a point of the league leaders with 25 after 11 games.
“We’ve made it possible for us to control our own destiny,” Global coach Leigh Manson said. “We don’t need to rely on other teams, so for us, it was huge.”
Mark Hartmann starred for Global as he fired the go-ahead goal—against his former team no less—and added an assist, while Milad Behgandom and Mexican recruit German Rodriguez completed the scoring party for the winners.
Not only did it avenge its 0-4 loss to the Sparks in the first round, but Global also dealt Loyola its first loss in almost six months or since September 27 when it lost to Kaya, 1-2, in the preseason.
Behgandom, the Iranian striker who has supplanted Izzo El-Habib from the starting lineup, unlocked the Loyola defense two minutes before first-half injury time, before Rodriguez, who just flew in the previous night, made an immediate impact with a header off a Hartmann cross to give Global a commanding lead in the 60th minute.
But the Sparks refused to fold as Lee Joo Young slotted home a nice pass from reigning UAAP MVP Paolo Bugas three minutes later, before Phil Younghusband scored from the penalty area to equalize the count in the 68th.
Hartmann, however, didn’t let Global’s gains go to waste as he scored the marginal goal, a deceivingly tame right-footed strike that Loyola goalkeeper Baba Sampana failed to save nine minutes before stoppage time.
Sparks coach Vince Santos rued his team’s missed chances early in the game as he grew wary of Global catching up in the standings.
“We never discount (Global) from the race, but it’s a three-round league,” Santos said. “I think it was the worst result we could get from the football we played.”