THE rise to the top of the United Football League could not have been faster for Ceres-La Salle.
In only its third tournament since joining the country's de facto premier league last year, the newly promoted side captured its second straight crown.
After topping Division 2 early this year, Ceres ruled the inaugural edition of the Football Alliance League Cup following a 2-1 triumph over Global FC on Thursday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Bacolod-based side banked on an early two-goal lead, before holding on after going a man down late in the second half to frustrate the reigning league champions in the finale.
“This team has proved a lot in the past two years,” Ceres striker Patrick Reichelt said of the two-time defending national club champions. “We knew we would be here soon.”
It was a nine-match sweep for Ceres in the season-opening tournament.
“It’s all hard work and patience by the team,” Ceres manager Ali Go said. “We always work hard to win every tournament we play in.”
Kim Jin Ho received the Golden Ball award for leaving his imprint all throughout the competition, while Adrian Gallardo barely missed the Golden Boot plum, which was awarded to Louis Clark of Kaya FC.
Kim and Gallardo were on target on Thursday for Ceres, which caught the Global defense napping just 56 seconds into the match when the Korean Kim headed home an Orman Okunaiya corner from the right side.
The Spanish Gallardo doubled the lead in the 21st minute with another header off a corner from Manny Ott in another set-piece conversion.
Mark Hartmann pulled a goal back with a missile from the middle in the 69th minute for Global, which conjured a handful more chances but ultimately could not find the equalizer.
Global failed to capitalize even after Ceres was reduced to 10 men after Juani Guirado was sent off for picking up a second yellow card in the 74th.
Edgar Briones, one of Global’s two goalscorers in the semifinal win against Loyola Meralco, almost knotted the count in stoppage time, only for goalkeeper Michael Casas proving equal to the challenge with an impressive denial of the Global sub's short-range strike to preserve the hard-earned win.