Missed opportunities and a meltdown in composure.
Green Archers let slip away a magnificent opportunity to grab the second finals slot so Pasargad took it. But at what cost?
story and pics by rick olivares
It’s just as important as having skilled and talented players or even having the benefit of superior coaching.
Pasargad, perhaps, a walking, talking roller-coaster-of-emotions-ride of a football club, is as talented as any other club in the land. Yet their constant complaints, barbs, and theatrics sometimes get the better of them.
Reigning in their emotions, Pasargad took their lumps early on against a slick passing Green Archers United side. Chieffy Caligdong and Jovanie Simpron scored within a minute of each other.
Caligdong, who has become the club’s leader in no time at all, showed the way to the PFF Smart National Club Championship Finals with an incredible goal in the 19th minute. Taking a cross from Tating Pasilan who was on the left wing, Caligdong controlled the ball then from 30 yards out blasted a screamer towards the PSG goal. The ball darted towards keeper Reza Ataei who looked to make an easy grab of the ball. Only it bounced a foot in front of him and bounced over his head for a goal.
A minute later, Jovanie Simpron reminded everyone of his once feared goal scoring prowess when he was with FEU and the national team by doubling the lead. Sporting a 2-nil lead, Green Archers United looked not only in control but 70 minutes away from joining fellow La Salle-based club, Ceres in the PFF Smart National Championship game.
Prior to the semifinals of the PFF Smart National Club Championship, Green Archers United consultant Hans Smit joked about his side meeting Ceres, their Bacolod-based La Sallian counterparts in the finals. “It’s an opportunity to show how good the La Salle football program is,” said Smit during the press conference that preceded the final four matches.
Ceres kept its part of the bargain with a masterful and stunning 3-1 conquest of Kaya but for GAU, up 2-0, that was the beginning of the end.
PSG, instead of bowing their heads down got right back into the match with a goal barely a minute after Simpron’s goal. Midfielder Charles Ujam, not the skillful at the position but a determined player nonetheless, corralled a cross from the left side. With no defender in sight, Ujam booted the ball in as GAU’s Martin Villaflor vainly tried to get to the undefended right side.
Four minutes later, Reza Amirkhizan equalized by scoring inside the box after winning the scrum in front of the goal.
In a thrilling six-minute span, four goals were scored by both GAU and PSG that had the crowd of several thousand at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium roaring.
It was Green Archers who were now reeling as Pasargad pressed their attack. The Esmail Sedigh-coached side lost its momentum when Emmanuel MBata was booked a second yellow card by referee Wilfredo Bermejo (a horribly wrong call if you ask me). That meant that PSG would have to play the rest of the game with 10 men.
Only then did Green Archers find their second wind with the opposition a man down. But Pasargad’s defense held.
At times, it looked like PSG defenders Francis Sumudivilla and Angelo Marasigan would give way to the pressure from GAU especially their wingers Arnie Pasinabo or even Pasilan but they held. But perhaps the most inspiration of PSG was the strong play of midfielder Hamed Hajimehdi. With his futsal background, Hajimehdi danced around defenders and broke tackles. He found teammates with through balls when there should have been none. In short, he kept GAU from completely loading up on offense and forced them back some.
The match went into extra periods and PSG, besieged much of the time, kept their composure.
It was Green Archers United’s second consecutive match in extra periods. They previously ditched Pachanga late in the second period of extra time with a Caligdong goal that should be celebrated for its extreme level of difficulty. This time, however, they were unable to score.
Thus the match went into a penalty shootout, the first of the tournament.
Caligdong was the first penalty taker and he sent Ataei diving right but placed the ball to the opposite side. Hajimehdi sent Villaflor in the opposite direction to equalize. And this is where the game entered the twilight zone.
Pasilan took the spot kick but Ataei blocked the shot eliciting a massive celebration on the PSG side. But linesman Grant Rojas called for a retake as Ataei left his line. Gifted with another chance, Pasilan still missed as he hit the post while a collective groan of disbelief emanated from his side.
Francis Sumudivilla, who had withstood the assault from the right flank by GAU, was steadier this time as he made good on his spot kick; 2-1, Pasargad.
Elle Cagayanan, a late sub for GAU, took a shot to the left but Ataei saved it. With a massive advantage to them, PSG’s Mark Anthony Fernandez looked to convert but Villaflor saved his shot to the left.
Tommy Escoltero, another former Stallion player now ensconced with GAU, fired right but Ataei saved his third consecutive shot. Thinking it was all over, Taher, followed by Ataei took of their shirts and celebrated at the sidelines. However, Green Archers had one more penalty taker in Ayi Aryee. If he converted and Villaflor saved the next shot, both teams would be back to zero. Bermejo promptly docked them another yellow card that saw them both sent off. This time it was Pasargad that stood and sat aghast at the turn of events. In a prime position to move on, if did move on, they will now be without MBata, Ujam, Taher, and Ataei on account of two yellow cards.
Pasargad now had lost MBata, Rezai and Taher. As they had used up all their substitutes, they were now down to eight players. Green Archers United contested this as they ascertained that it was previously agreed in the manager’s meeting that a team needed nine to play. While tournament officials were checking the tournament rules as well as FIFA’s Laws of the Game, Bermejo surprisingly allowed the shootout to continue. Aryee, with Hajimehdi now playing goalkeeper, missed his shot and Pasargad celebrated a second time.
A stunned and disconsolate Green Archers United side sat on their bench. Many shook their heads in disbelief. They had let a game that was theirs to win slip away. Given a second chance, they still muffed it.
Pasargad’s celebration was somewhat muted because four key players – MBata, Taher, Ataei, and Ujam will all be out for the title game against Ceres on account of two yellow cards. For much of the game, they played with a lot of focus and stayed composed, but with the game in the balance, they took of their shirts that eventually saw them get tossed.
“It’s a win,” sighed PSG head coach Esmail Sedigh who summed up the bizarre match. “But somehow it doesn’t feel like one.’
|PSG players in varying poses of anxiety during the penalty shootout with Green Archers United. The score was 2-1 in their favor when I took this.|