Written by: Ryan Low
Philippines invitee Global Cebu made their first-ever RHB Singapore Cup final after defeating Hougang United 2-1 at Hougang Stadium on Saturday night to progress 4-3 on aggregate.
Former Trinidad and Tobago international forward Darryl Roberts repeated his feat in Wednesday night’s first leg 2-2 draw by scoring another brace to set up a Cup final date with holders Albirex Niigata (S).
Hougang’s Spanish forward Pablo Rodriguez had scored an equaliser, but it proved to be in vain as the Cheetahs failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage in the second half after Global’s Dennis Villanueva was sent off.
Global got off to a superb start in the second leg by scoring on 13 minutes. Wide man Paolo Salenga put in an inch-perfect cross for Roberts to nod past Khairulhin Khalid and put the visitors 3-2 up on aggregate.
That woke Hougang up from their slumber as they almost scored in the 35th minute.
Wahyudi Wahid squared across goal for Delwinder Singh but the latter somehow slammed into the side netting from three yards out.
Rodriguez then went through on goal via Nazrul Nazari’s lofted pass on 38 minutes, but his left-footed drive was denied by Global custodian Patrick Deyto.
The Cheetahs would grab a deserved equaliser a minute later, with Rodriguez latching on to a long ball, cutting inside his man before firing inside Deyto’s near post to draw level on aggregate.
Philippe Aw’s side picked where they left off after the restart, with Rodriguez producing a spectacular 30-yard volley on 55 minutes which Deyto had to stretch to tip over.
From the resulting corner played in by Zulfahmi Arifin, Wahyudi could only head wide at the back post.
Global then went on a quick counter, with Paolo Bugas drawing Khairulhin into a diving save with his 20-yard shot.
The visitors then suffered a setback on 70 minutes, with hard man Villanueva dismissed for a second yellow card after fouling Fumiya Kogure.
However, Akbar Nawas’ side rallied together and managed to score a second goal just two minutes later.
Khairulhin misjudged opposite number Deyto’s long punt, leading to Roberts getting just ahead of him to nod home the winner from just outside the box.
Aw then threw on the likes of Iqbal Hussain and Fareez Farhan in the final 15 minutes, but the Cheetahs found it tough to break down the Global defence led by Wesley Dos Santos.
There was one final opportunity to push the game into extra time when Iqbal was fouled on the edge of the box by Marco Casambre, but Kogure’s resulting free kick failed to beat the wall.
Time soon ran out for Hougang, as they have to be contented with fighting for third place with Home United in the competition.
Hougang United Head Coach Philippe Aw: “The turning point came when Global had a man sent off. I felt because of that, we felt that we got this and victory’s ours for sure. That’s a dangerous thought. Immediately we switched off and got punished.
“Roberts is a fantastic player and we failed to stop him. The manner we lost was disappointing. With 11 vs 11, we were in control. But once they were down to 10, we were just launching and hoping that something will fall. We were impatient and the final ball was disappointing.
“We failed in our target to win a trophy, but we still have third place in the Cup to fight for. We’re still looking at winning games and fourth in the S.League is a realistic target for us. What’s clear is that players are fighting for their future and we’re looking to play those who show the most desire.”
Global Cebu Head Coach Akbar Nawas: “I’m relieved of course, with all the problems we had. We had a lack of players and they played so many games recently. To get the winning goal after going a man down showed great character and credit goes to the team.
“It’s not just about Roberts’ goals, he also impressed us with his ability to play all-round game and help out his teammates. Now we’re playing Albirex in the final, I’ll be looking to my friends (fellow coaches) in other clubs, engage them and I’m sure they’ll give me all the info.
“But now we have to focus on the PFL (Philippines Football League), we’re in third and trying to stay in the top four to qualify for the playoffs.”
Hougang United: Khairulhin Khalid (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Delwinder Singh, Atsushi Shirota, Wahyudi Wahid (Faiz Salleh 85’), Fumiya Kogure, Fabian Kwok, Zulfahmi Arifin, Syahiran Miswan (Iqbal Hussain 75’), Nurhilmi Jasni (C) (Fareez Farhan 81’), Pablo Rodriguez
Global Cebu: Patrick Deyto (GK, C), Serge Kaole, Paul Mulders, Dennis Villanueva, Paolo Bugas (Marvin Bricenio 90’), Jerry Barbaso, Hikaru Minegishi, Darryl Roberts, Paolo Salenga (Fritz Brigoli 89’), Marco Casambre, Wesley Dos Santos