LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET – On a sloppy, soggy, and foggy afternoon at the Benguet State University ground, General Trias International hacked out a 3-1 road win against Baguio United last Saturday.
The victory propels the Korean team to a quarterfinal clash with either Army or Pasargad in the SMART PFF National Club Championship.
The Koreans leaned on second-half strikes from Cha Won Jae and Lee Seong Woo to repel United in a game played at an estimated 16 degrees celsius and a steady rain throughout, as well as fog in the first half.
It was so frigid that striker Joseph Lingwayon of Baguio United played the entire game with gloves.
Because of a threat of fog, kickoff was pushed earlier to 2pm instead of the originally scheduled 3pm.
The home team started brightly with chances by left winger Mark Signabon and Mark-ed Lusung within the first ten minutes, while Lee and Jeon Shin Seok came close for the visitors.
Baguio threatened with a header wide from Signabon in the 29th minute while moments later Friday Okoro's free kick went straight to the GTI keeper.
Then at the 33rd minute a thick fog began to encroach onto the field. As it was spreading, GTI's Park Yi Young blasted a long-range free-kick that bounced awkwardly in front of United keeper Earl Fernandez. It took a funny bounce on the ragged turf and caromed in for the opener.
Moments after the game was suspended by Baguio FA head Leo Arnaiz as the fog had reduced visibility to just a few meters.
Play was eventually resumed as things cleared up. But the cloudy soup returned two minutes before the half and the home team exploited it brilliantly.
Signabon collected a lovely pass near the six-yard box and centered to Lingwayon, who buried it into the net for the equalizer.
In the second half the skies cleared for good and GTI stepped it up a gear, employing a fierce high-pressure defense and sticking to a very aggressive 3-4-3 formation against United's 4-5-1 with Lingwayon up top.
Jeon could have given GTI its second score but his free kick clanged off the crossbar in the 52st minute
In the 54rd minute GTI made the pressure pay when substitute Cha Won Jae picked up a loose ball that pinballed off a defender's back. He drove it home for a 2-1 advantage.
General Trias looked the fitter of the teams in the second half as they harried United, who were unable to assert themselves in the midfield.
Signabon could have leveled in the 81st but his hard volley off a beautiful control of a high ball and exquisite turn was just wide.
In the 87th minute General Trias settled matters with an opportunistic strike from Lee to make it 3-1. Baguio United's Goodwin Pugong played a poor goal kick that was intercepted by GTI and hammered into the net.
“Errors killed us” bemoaned Baguio United coach Homer Alinsug afterwards. “We played our game but we made too many mistakes.”
OTHER NOTES: According to Virgie Tibaldo – Bungay, Baguio native and former Women's national team player, Signabon was the goalscorer for the home team when the Azkals defeated a Baguio Selection in February of 2011 by a score of 9-1.... Baguio United started four Nigerians, Okoro, Pugong, Godwin Ugedi, and Daniel Agbanyo. I was told that some of these players were lured into the country with promises to play in the United Football League.... Mohanad Farah, formerly of Pachanga, is on the roster for Baguio United.... the visiting team arrived a full two days before the game to acclimatize... GTI will face the winner of Army vs Pasaragad, who will square off in Manila on Sunday.
Other Round-of-16 Results:
Kaya 5, M'lang 0
Loyola Meralco Sparks 8, Flame United 0
Green Archers Unted Globe 6, Romgarjal 1
Pachanga-Diliman 3, Cebu Queen City United 1
You can follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.