Substitutions can either make or break a team.
When Kaya played Diliman, it was the second half adjustments and entry of Anton del Rosario that changed the fortunes of the Juan Cutillas-mentored club, allowing them to win the match.
During the October 23 clash between Pachanga and Global, the entry of Angel Guirado in the second half clearly changed the pace of the match for the defending UFL Cup champions. The two goals Guirado’s side scored to draw level with Pachanga clearly had his imprint all over them.
And there was Pachanga-Queen City United match, where Shirmar Felongco was lifted after 11 minutes due to an injury. His substitute, Ronnel Lagrimas scored a goal two minutes after that, lifting the early pressure from Cebu that not only dominated possession but also kept attacking.
And then there’s Green Archers United against Pasargad.
The alumni team of De La Salle University has had one of the top-rated defenses heading into the end of the group stage. Bracketed with Pasargad, Forza, and Dolphins United, the Green Archers made short work of Forza 5-nil and Dolphins 6-0. The Archers were the sixth-best goal-scoring team with 11 heading into the match.
But perhaps more than the wins, it was an immense source of pride that the team had kept two clean sheets and were, in fact, only one of three clubs not to have a ball go past the keeper, the other two being Nomads and Army.
On the other side of the pitch, Pasargad, the Iranian club that once featured a striker named Misagh Bahadoran, was in second place but in a tricky situation. It toted a 1-1 record after a 1-nil win over Dolphins and a 4-2 loss to Forza. It was tied with Forza at second place, but had the tiebreak owing to a better goal difference – negative one as opposed to the negative five of Forza. For Pasargad to advance, they needed either a win, a draw, or a loss by not more than four goals. Yet head coach Essi Sedigh remained optimistic of his team’s chances.
Once the game began, it was all Green Archers. With former national player Arnie Pasinabo and team captain Patrick Bocobo making run after run, it seemed that it was a matter of time before the team scored.
All that was keeping Pasargad in the match was the netminding of Abdollah Golkhah, who turned back numerous strikes against him. Jay-Ar Inventor and Friday Uche did their best to mount attacks for Sedigh’s team but the defensive line of Jun Mark Saraga, Arvin Soliman, Reynald Villareal, and Luis Miguel Celdran drove them back.
Needing a spark, Green Archers’ manager Monchu Garcia, who was taking over Adolfo Alicante who was unavailable for the match, replaced midfielder Kix Romero-Salas with Gung Villa on the right midfield. Romero-Salas is a very good midfielder but if he is unable to get going early then he is off his game. While Villa, who had just graduated from DLSU, brought in fresh legs and pace off the right flank, it was the introduction of Gerald Pacquiao, normally a starter, in the late stages of the match that galvanized their team.
Pacquiao, who starred for the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod and the National Capital Region team in the recent Under-23 national championships, was found by midfielder Shapay Johnson off a free kick and he outran his defenders finally beat Golkhah to give his side a 1-nil lead in the 63rd minute. Pacquiao would cause more problems for Pasargad on the left freeing up Pasinabo and Bocobo for more chances but the Green Archers were still unable to add a second goal.
Soon after Pacquiao’s goal, Sedigh sent in midfielder Navid Khorsani for Uche. But after conceding the goal, Pasargad kept most of its players on its side of the field to prevent any additional goals, leaving Ruben Bioumla up front for a possible counterattack.
With four minutes added to the match, Pasargad had one chance to steal a goal for a draw when it was awarded a corner shot. For the first time since the early part of the second half, Pasargad sent almost its entire team forward. The ball found Kohorsani in the box and the Iranian quickly turned and fired away to the second post past a diving Martin Villaflor.
Seconds later, the final whistle blew and Pasargad qualified for the knockout stages.
Said a disappointed Monchu Garcia after the match, “I think it’s our curse to given up late goals. Last year we gave up one to Navy and other squads. But we’re in and we just have to learn from this and play until the final whistle ends.”
Added Khorsani, “We knew it’s our last chance to score because it’s good to advance because of what you do on the field. We earned that point and it’s a good chance for Pasargad to enter the next stage.”