Kaya FC Iloilo capped off an impressive 2018 season with a thrilling 1-0 win over ten-man Davao Aguilas Bellmare FC to win the inaugural Copa Paulino Alcantara at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
The two teams battled to a 0-0 score line after ninety minutes, but the tide turned in Kaya’s favor when Davao defender Wesley dos Santos was sent off in the 99th minute after accumulating a second yellow card.
The undermanned Aguilas held firm however, and with the game seemingly destined to head into penalties, Jovin Bedic emerged as the hero in the 118th minute with a clinical finish off a Robert Lopez Mendy cross to give Iloilo a well-deserved victory.
Kaya FC Iloilo will now go on to represent the Philippines and participate in the 2019 AFC Cup.
Here are three things we learned from Kaya’s victory.
1.) Kaya prove winning is possible even on a limited budget
There were two distinct narratives coming into the final.
On the one hand, there is a Davao Aguilas side who were arguably the favorites to win simply by the quality of the players on their roster.
Having signed Phil and James Younghusband midway through last season, the team added the likes of Patrick Deyto, Tahj Minniecon and Jason de Jong to form a formidable lineup.
On the other hand, there is Kaya FC Iloilo, whose signings were of the more low-ley and prudent sort, though as the final result proves, no less effective.
Does Kaya’s victory over their bigger budgeted opponents provide a template on how to win without spending big and signing the big-name players?
Team Manager Chris Greatwich explains, “Is it a template I am not sure. But I have the fortune with working with some of the wonderful human beings first.”
“I have worked with a bunch of guys who come into training, work hard, try to adapt themselves to my ideas, which is tough sometimes. And if that’s the format for success, then maybe.”
The former Azkal hero however, understands the reality of modern-day football.
“So, is it a template? Possibly. But it does help when you have lots of money to spend.”
“You not necessarily don’t need to have money. But it would help.”
2.) Disappointment for Davao
Azkals and Davao captain Phil Younghusband has accomplished so much in his distinguished career, but his dream of participating in the AFC tournaments will again have to wait for another year.
It is may seem unthinkable that the Azkals leading goal scorer and the face of Philippine football for many years has never tasted AFC club football action, and the reality is that this year was as great a chance as he would have.
With champions Ceres already clinching a berth at the AFC Champions League, Davao entered the Copa Paulino Alcantara as one of the favorites to win the cup and with it go to the AFC Cup next year.
With multi-titled Leigh Manson at the helm and with massive support from the management, it seemed that the time was right for Davao to finally win their first maiden trophy in the Philippines.
Davao had their chances, but Messrs. Younghusband and company will have to wait another year.
3.) Joven Bedic’s impressive 2018
For Iloilo born Jovin Bedic, scoring the winning goal in the final of Copa Paulino Alcantara -- named after the Ilonggo legend who went on to set scoring records at FC Barcelona before a certain Leo Messi decided to break them -- scoring in the final had extra meaning.
Bedic: “Best feeling lagi pag maka-score, pero mas special ito kasi final. Especially ako na taga Barotac Nuevo.”
After the dramatic victory which saw a cohesive Kaya beat a much-heralded Davao, head coach Noel Marcaida was understandably full of praise for his players after the match.
“I can say na yong best local players is nasa Kaya FC, and na prove namin na we have the local players na kayang maglaro sa ganitong level,” says the Kaya head coach.
He is obviously proud of the development of local players under his watch.
“Isa sa focus namin is to develop local players. Also, masaya kami kasi yong Kaya FC is a mixture of quality Filipino, quality foreign Filipino and quality foreign players. So, I would say na magaling ang management ng Kaya FC.”
But with star striker Robert Lopez Mendy and other players on expiring contracts, it is now up to management of Kaya to make sure they are on board for next season.
Chris Greatwich is pragmatic about the situation.
“Who knows what’s going to happen between now and the start of the AFC?”
Obviously, individual contractual situations would need to be resolved, but I personally don’t want to look beyond tonight and want to savor the moment.”
“It’s been a long, hard season with many many obstacles we’ve had to overcome and pleased we’ve been able to reach the summit tonight.”
An Ilonggo scoring in the final of a cup named after Iloilo’s most famous football son.
One can almost imagine Paulino Alcantara himself smiling in approval.
Pics from Kaya FC Facebook page.