BACOLOD CITY - Negros Occidental leaned on a Charles Barberan penalty kick to nip Cavite, 1-0, Friday and advance to the finals of the PFF Smart Under-22 Amateur Football Championship at Panaad Stadium here.
The 18-year-old Barberan, a University of St. La Salle standout, was on target from the spot in the 15th minute, lifting the hosts to the title game where it will face either Davao or Misamis Occidental for the crown on Sunday.
Davao and Misamis Occidental were slated to play in the second semifinal late Friday.
Negros’ Nigerian striker Eli Usman was brought down inside the box and Barberan stepped up to cooly plant the ball to the top corner for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
The hosts couldn’t find a second goal despite numerous attempts in the second half, but coach John Carmona expressed satisfaction over the play of his side.
“We dominated the game and dictated the flow so I’m happy with that,” said Carmona.
“But we have to get better in finishing off our chances. We’re fortunate Cavite wasn’t able to capitalize with the chances that they also had.”
Cavite, whose core is made up of NCAA champion Arellano University, got top striker Charles Gamutan back from suspension.
But the Cavitenos opted to take a more defensive approach, absorbing pressure before putting players forward for possible counterattacks.
One counterattack in the opening half almost led to the equaliser but Gamutan who scored for Arellano in the NCAA finals against San Beda sent his effort wide on a breakaway opportunity.
Negros missed defenders Joshua Otusme and Reggie Sisneros after they picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament in the 3-0 win over North Cotabato in the quarterfinals.
But the Negrenses still coped with the speed of Cavite’s players up front, while carving our chances for themselves.
Usman missed a couple of clear-cut chances, while Madi Taniform, who scored a classy goal against Cotabato also fired an effort wide in the second half.
“We just need more composure in front of goal, but at least we’re in the finals,” said Carmona. “I’m hoping that we can play better in the next game.”