By JVP, GMA News
Goalkeeper Edmundo Mercado turned back the hands of time while Ian Araneta and Yanti Barsales knocked in the goals as Philippine Air Force beat highly-favored Loyola Meralco Sparks FC, 2-0, Saturday in the UFL Cup Finals at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.
Araneta struck a left-booted shot from inside the box in the 38th minute before Barsales notched the insurance goal in the 90th.
But it was Mercado’s game-long efforts that secured the Airmen the 2011 UFL Cup. The 37-year-old stopped the Sparks’ high-powered offense led by brothers Phil and James Younghusband.
“We want to prove to everyone that Air Force is the number one team in the Philippines,” said Mercado, a 13-year national team member who retired in 2008.
“We played basic football. They are big and in terms of skill, they have the edge but we played as a team,” said Air Force head coach Edzel Bracamonte.
After left winger Chieffy Caligdong penetrated inside the box, Araneta was left open and booted the ball home using his left foot to break the scoreless deadlock.
The Sparks could have tied the goal in the 53rd minute after James Younghusband scored a header off a Matt Hartmann corner kick but the head referee disallowed it after the referee wrongly placed the ball in the corner.
Loyola Meralco had another golden chance in the 86th minute but substitute Alex Elnar’s header hit the crossbar. Another mad scramble ensued and Elnar again missed the goal by inches after his header once again hit the crossbar.
Phil Younghusband got free in the 87th minute and nearly scored a game-tying goal but Mercado used his feet to save the ball and prevent another point blank attempt from the Sparks.
Barsales scored after stealing the ball at the back from John Paul Merida and flicked his shot from 20 yards out to seal the title win.
The 38-year-old Barsales eventually won the Golden Boot award (Most Valuable Player) while Mercado took home the Golden Glove or the best goalkeeper trophy.
Phil Younghusband was awarded the Golden Ball award.