Sun.Star Cebu


- EDRI K. AZNAR / Correspond­ent

CEBU FC clinched a spot in the semifinals of the 2022 Copa Paulino Alcantara after winning its third straight match.

Cebu FC had a second-half rally for a 3-1 comeback win over Mendiola FC 1991 on Monday night, May 2, 2022, at the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.

Cebu FC controlled most of the opening half. However, Mendiola FC got a huge break just before halftime after earning a penalty kick because a Cebu FC defender was called for a handball inside the box.

Hamed Hajimehdi calmly took the shot and sent it to the back of the net in the 42nd minute to give Mendiola FC the lead going into halftime.

Cebu FC came out of the halftime break with fire in their eyes as they mounted an impressive comeback.

“At the halftime, we explained to the players where we made mistakes and I asked them to correct the mistakes. I didn’t want them not to have discipline in the game. What I’m trying to do is to keep the system of the play and the discipline. We did the necessary changes in the second half. I’m very happy because the winning mentality is there so it is not difficult to motivate them. I explained to the team that we have to play high, high press, keep ball possession on the opponent’s side, use the wings, and the finishing, and that happened,” said Cebu FC head coach Mehmet Kakil. “Our philosophy is to never give up and we have a winning mentality.”

Even with a head injury, a bandaged Turkish forward Arda Cinkir headed in the equalizer in the 57th minute from a cross pass by Poy Saldivar from the right flank.

Cinkir, 20, hit the go-ahead goal with a beautifull­y struck low cross pass from JB Borlongan in the 72nd minute.

Turkish midfielder Mert Altinoz, who was in top form the whole match, added insult to injury after scoring with a strike inside the box after beating two Mendiola FC defenders in the third minute of added time.

“We were losing in the first half but we always had that winning mentality. Our winning mentality is very important in the game. Everyone watch out as we will bring more exciting games. Tara Cebu!,” said Cinkir, who got the “Man of the Match” honors. “I got up, I got hurt pretty badly but in the end, I got up and told myself not to stop. I am very happy that I scored and that we won.”

Cebu FC surged to the third spot of the standings with nine points, just behind Kaya FC-Iloilo with 13 points after picking up three more points from a 3-2 win over Stallion Laguna FC. United City FC is third with eight points and Azkals Developmen­t Team (ADT) is fourth with seven points.

Cebu FC is already assured of a berth in the semi-finals but the positionin­g will depend on the last few remaining matches of Kaya FC, UCFC and Maharlika Manila FC.

Cebu has three more matches remaining. It’ll be against Maharlika FC, UCFC and Kaya FC.

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