ALTHOUGH they were down early in the Men’s Open championship match of the 11th Cebu Amateur Football Club National Interclub Football Cup yesterday at the University of San Carlos-Technology Center pitch, Hiroshi FC showed the will of a champion to score a come-from-behind win over, 5-4, over Waterfresh-Queen City United (QCU) in penalty shootout.
Waterfresh-QCU had the first half advantage with a goal in the 40th minute from Rocky Garciano, one of former Hiroshi players who have transferred to other clubs.
The arrival of the Azkals must have been a lucky sign for Hiroshi FC because just as their bus stopped right behind the QCU goal, Hiroshi FC team captain Voltaire Montebon scored an amazing 25-yard free kick from the left flank, getting through the wall and through the Waterfresh-QCU goalkeeper in the 62nd minute.
There was a brief five-minute pause in the match, as the crowd flocked near the sidelines when the Azkals, led by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, disembarked from the team bus and walked up the stage to watch the ongoing Men’s Open championship match. The Azkals were also in attendance to award the winners of the tournament.
As soon as the Azkal-mania subsided, both teams continued to play physical football but neither squad could hit the target at the end of regulation, with the match tied at 1-1.
Hiroshi had a chance to dispose of its rival squad in the first half of extra time with two shots on target but the Waterfresh-QCU’s custodian was able to deflect both shots. A volley by Harold Buot just from outside the box forced a save, while Junard Aguilar also had his shot deflected.
Waterfresh-QCU started to find its rhythm in the second half of extra time but they also failed to hit the back of the net.
In penalty shootout, Hiroshi FC once again found themselves trailing, 2-1, after Waterfresh-QCU stopped second kicker Rommel Cortes. Both teams next kickers hit the back of the net to make it 3-2.
Then misfortune struck Queen City. Rene Menchavez hit his shot wide, opening the way for Jan Michael Flores’s equalizer.
Queen City’s last kicker and former PHL 23-Under teammember Arnie Pasinabo also missed his strike, hitting the right post, while Buot calmly hit the back of the net to spark a wild celebration of the club.
“We didn’t lose hope. We were really aiming for a championship,” Montebon, who was named the MVP, told Sun.Star Cebu.
Montebon and Frederick Alazas worked hand in hand for the revival of the club, which used to dominate local football.
“We started from scratch but we believed in ourselves. It was a matter of composure,” said Alazas, who added the team wasn’t able to practice much owing to their busy schedule.
Alazas said it has been a long time since they won an 11-a-side title that he can no longer when their last title run was.
Earlier that day, Abellana National School-Pomeroy remained unbeaten and overwhelmed home team USC-TC, 6-2, to win the Boys 17 crown.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 30, 2011.