THE clock finally struck midnight for this season’s Cinderella team.
Playing with enough resolve against an equally determined foe, Pachanga-Diliman put an end to Philippine Air Force’s fairytale run in the United Football League Cup following a 3-2 semifinal victory in extra time on Tuesday night at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
The former Division 2 champions overhauled an early lead before leaning on a late sublime free-kick goal from Reza Amirkhizan to scrape past the gritty, overachieving Airmen who went into the game with nothing to lose after a string of unexpected impressive results in the past rounds.
“It was very tough,” Pachanga coach Noel Marcaida said. “We started really slow and played the game of Air Force.”
“But it was all about patience, consistency, and faith,” he added as his team set up a final showdown with favored Loyola Meralco on Thursday.
For a while, though, it seemed the Airmen’s magical run would continue after skipper Ian Araneta stunned their opponents and brought the rowdy Air Force crowd into a frenzy with a header that found the back of the net 25 minutes into the game.
But Nate Burkey quickly equalized with a penalty conversion four minutes later as both teams ended up tied until the regulation buzzer.
With a sense of urgency, Pachanga immediately scored in its first possession in extra time as Ariel Zerrudo caught the Air Force defense napping and fired a left-footed strike.
The Airmen, however, would just not give up as Jez Tonog pounced on a loose ball and fired low to the left corner to knot the count again in the 95th minute.
But with the game threatening to go to a penalty shootout, Amirkhizan, the Iranian left-back, rose to the occasion and scored on a right-side free kick that hit the upper-right corner before bouncing to touch the goal line in the 112th minute.
Pachanga, however, will be missing Bureky in the finale as the former national striker was sent off for picking up two yellow cards in the game.