DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines - Saving grace.
MIMAROPA goalkeeper Joshua Dalida made the game-winning save in the penalty shootout to lift Region IV-B to a 5-4 (penalties) win that capped their fairytale championship run in the 2013 Palarong Pambansa boys secondary football tournament.
With his team holding a precarious lead, Dalida guessed Gylan Ventulero's shot, choosing right and saving the shot going to the bottom right corner of the goal as MIMAROPA bagged their first football title in recent years.
"I had no idea where the ball will go but I just trusted my guts and went to my left. The next thing I knew, I made the save," he said, the feeling of being a champion still sinking.
Manzo plays hero once again
After a quiet first half, MIMAROPA drew first blood as Britz Manzo lifted his team in the 71st minute with a composed finish inside the box.
Manzo, who suffered an injury in their first elimination game, proved his quality with a brilliant run with skipper Jopridale Molino and striker Leon Hagedorn. The three ace booters made a run into the box, playing a one-two passing game, with Molino striking at the edge.
Malinao, the Central Visayas goalkeeper saved Molino's shot but spilled the ball as the rebound fell on the foot of Manzo, who finished it clinically at the upper right corner of the goal.
The goal put MIMAROPA in the driver's seat to win the gold medal with under 10 minutes left in regulation time.
But the Central Visayas booters pulled a trick out of their sleeves in the dying minutes of the game.
Late game equalizer
Down 1-0, Central Visayas went top speed to salvage an equalizer in the dying minutes of the game. Prolific footballers Miguel Kwan, Jun Carlo Canlas and Karlo Villamor showed enterprise with brilliant runs in the MIMAROPA half.
Their hardwork paid off when Villamor scored in the 79th minute to breathe life to Central Visayas' campaign.
The goal came off a scuffle in the box from a freekick in the left side of the MIMAROPA half. Dalida parried the ball away and made 2 more saves from a barrage of attacks from the Central Visayas booters before Villamor found the ball and kicked it hard to beat the overwhelmed MIMAROPA keeper.
Regulation time ended with the score tied at 1-1.
In MIMAROPA's second penalty shootout in two consecutive games, Dalida took the limelight again.
Central Visayas answered every penalty scored by MIMAROPA with just the glitch at the end.
Skipper Molino, Fallaria and Hagedorn scored the first 3 penalties for MIMAROPA, while Villamor, Kwan and Pelicano equalized for Central Visayas. Dalida got a hand in Kwan's penalty shot but the kick was so strong, it went to the back of the net.
Felicida scored for Central Visayas to neutralize Valenzuela's score for MIMAROPA. Central Visayas goalkeeper Malinao could have lifted his team had he fully saved Valenzuela's shot.
The last shots for both teams proved to be the deciding factor with the score tied at 4-4. Arboleda scored the last penalty for MIMAROPA to get them ahead, 5-4.
With a save giving them the championship, Dalida was again put to the pressure. Ventulero took the last shot for Central Visayas, striking in the far right of the goal. But Dalida was unfazed and saved the shot for MIMAROPA's championship.
"We are so happy. I could not ask for anything else. I'm so proud of my boys," MIMAROPA coach Joseph Malaya said.
Central Visayas coach Dionilo Santillan, clearly upset with the result, lauded MIMAROPA for their fighting spirit and said they will come back next year, stronger.
"MIMAROPA deserves the win. We will take the result. We will come back next year. We may not be champions this year, but our hearts are," he said in tears while hugging his players.
In the runners up match, Cotabato Region bagged 3rd place after defeating defending champions NCR. Western Visayas settles for 5th while Davao Region ends the competition at 6th. -