IF the celebration took longer than usual, it was understandable.
After all, Global FC solidified its chances of capturing the United Football League crown as it turned back Loyola Meralco, 2-1, in pulsating match that lived up to its billing at the packed Emperador Stadium in Taguig.
The pacesetting squad overhauled an early deficit and bucked a penalty miss, before turning to old reliables Misagh Bahadoran and Izzo El-Habib to move on the cusp of its second league title in three years with still six games left.
Global jacked up its point total to 44 points after 18 games, stretching its lead over the Sparks to five with still a game on hand. Third-running Kaya FC has 36 points in 17 games.
“We’ve taken a big step,” Global coach Leigh Manson said, his voice hardly heard with his wards’ own voices in the dugout reverberating outside during the post-game press conference.
For a while, though, it seemed the Sparks were poised to come out with a win and make the title race more interesting as James Younghusband put them on the scoreboard with a close-range strike off the rebound 33 minutes into the game.
Loyola goalkeeper Baba Sampana also made a sensational save of Mark Hartmann’s penalty attempt 20 minutes into the second half.
But in a matter of three minutes, the game turned around.
In his first game since suffering an MCL injury that sidelined him for two months, Bahadoran, who wore the captain’s armband after replacing skipper Jason de Jong, scored off the rebound barely a minute later.
Four minutes after, it was El-Habbib’s turn as the Sudanese striker, who recently signed a new deal with Global, repaid owner Dan Palami’s faith as he scored the go-ahead goal after catching the Loyola backline off guard.
“We came into the match with the right perspective, but we couldn’t sustain it,” said Sparks coach Vince Santo, who missed the services of injured star striker Phil Younghusband. “It looks like the league is out of our hands now.”