RUFINO “Rufo” Sanchez and Ruben “Balut” Doctora Jr. sparkled for Stallion as it stunned Global, 2-1, to capture the United Football League Cup championship on Monday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Skipper Doctora and Spanish striker Sanchez both found the back of the net as the Stallions bucked a three-week layoff and toppled a powerhouse squad with 10 national team members in its fold.
It was a remarkable rise for the Stallions, who won the Cup after being promoted to Division 1 earlier this year and finishing fourth place in their maiden League campaign.
“We proved we belong in the first division and now we proved we belong in the elite,” Stallion coach Ernie Nierras said. “We really wanted to play Global because we felt that we were going to play our best. You saw it. The game was back and forth.”
Stallion dealt its opponent its first loss of the season.
Doctora scored in the 24th minute, but Izzo El-Habbib hit the equalizer just a minute later. Doctora had to miss the second half due to an ankle sprain.
"Nag-worry ako nung lumabas ako sa start ng second half. Alam ko malaki pa sana maitutulong ko pero tiwala ako sa team namin," said Doctora, who received the Golden Ball award equivalent to the MVP trophy.
Sanchez broke not only the deadlock but also the hearts of the pro-Global crowd at the venue as the Spaniard scored in the second half with a header before being substituted late in the match due to severe cramps.
“We were cramping up so we had to make substitutions,” Nierras said. “Kahit nagte-training kami, kulang pa rin yung match fitness eh.”
“Global was better conditioned than us but we were able to take advantage of their mistakes,” Nierras added, explaining that almost half of Global’s lineup stayed in tip-top shape after they suited up for the Azkals who participated in the recent Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
Stallion goalkeeper Wilson Muñoz also came up big with a crucial rejection of an Izzo El-Habbib header late in second-half injury time that would have been the equalizer. He copped the Golden Gloves Award.
Loyola’s Phil Younghusband rounded out the individual awardees as the Filipino-British striker bagged the Golden Boot award for scoring the most goals in the tournament with 10.