Keen to make amends after crashing out of the AFC Champions League, reigning UFL champions Global FC kicked off its 2017 AFC Cup campaign with a straightforward 1-0 victory in Manila against tournament debutants Magwe FC of Myanmar.
Misagh Bahadoran scored the solitary goal in the 39th minute from a sublime Matthew Hartmann cross, and Global didn’t look back en route to their first win of the tournament.
Here are five thoughts from the game.
1. Much better AFC Cup start for Global FC
Two years ago, Global were famously thrashed in their AFC Cup debut in 2015. Fast forward to 2017, the ‘People’s Club’ made a perfect start to the tournament with a win against the Burmese Cup champions at Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
Having also played in the AFC Champions League preliminary stages, Global banked on its experience to repulse a physical Magwe side, who largely left Patrick Deyto untroubled all evening.
Global paraded three new players in their lineup, with Brazilian central defender Wesley dos Santos, former Swansea City midfielder Kemy Agustien and Trinidad and Tobago striker Darryl Roberts making their debuts, and all three provided strong performances for the Philippine champions.
Three points are in the bag, and Global FC now focus their attention to the next two games away from home, against Beoungket Angkor in Phnom Penh, and the mighty JDT in Johor.
2. MOTM dos Santos forms a good partnership with Amani
Strong and physical, Wesley dos Santos impressed in his debut in the heart of the defense, en route to a Man of the Match performance for Global FC.
A rather shaky start in the opening minute saw Global FC on the back foot right from kickoff, but as the game progressed, the Brazilian and his defensive partners gradually grew in confidence.
Against a very robust and physical Magwe side, dos Santos rose to the challenge and formed a solid partnership with Amani Aguinaldo. The presence of dos Santos makes up for the departure of Milan Nikolic, and allows Global to field Dennis Villanueva and Paul Mulders in their normal positions.
3. Against better opposition, Global needs to take its chances
Global controlled possession for majority of the game, but they were met with a stubborn Magwe side content to sit back and pack the middle of the field with blue shirts.
After Misagh’s goal opened up the game, Magwe had no recourse but to go and try to get something from this game, which meant Global had chances to kill the game off.
Perhaps the lack of quality games has dulled the team’s cutting edge in front of goal, as quick passing combinations could only see Global half-threaten Magwe’s goal.
On the other end, Magwe hardly threatened Patrick Deyto, but stiffer opposition down the road will mean that Global need to take their chances if they harbor any chance of progression to the knockout stages.
4. Global’s left flank does plenty of damage
Usually placed as a defensive midfielder, Matthew Hartmann was deployed in the left side of a back four, and he played the role of the modern foraging fullback to perfection.
Linking well with Pika Minegishi, Hartmann tormented delivered crosses from the left, and it was his cross in the 39th minute that found Misagh Bahadoran who duly delivered the only goal of the game.
Could his performances for club lead to a long overdue Azkals’ call up?
5. Fans starved of football action
The official attendance at the Rizal Memorial Stadium might be only 456 people, but current PFL players, coaches and staff and a smattering of fans on complimentary tickets meant that the actual number of fans in the stadium was slightly higher.
From the heights of 2011-13, football in the Philippines has slowly and surely been in a decline, but evenings like these remind us of the attraction of the beautiful game.
In years past, night games and lit floodlights at Rizal Memorial featured packed stands filled with fans sporting banners of support.
It is hoped that fans do their share to bring back the sport to those heady levels, which may seem like a lifetime ago.
It is what Philippine football deserve, and badly need now.
Ryan Fenix is InterAksyon.com’s resident football analyst. His football column Rampaging Fullback appears exclusively on the site. He runs the football blog The Prawn Sandwich Brigade, covers football for Sports5, writes for ESPN FC, and serves as a FIFA Ballon d’Or juror. He is also a huge tennis fan. You can follow him on Twitter.
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