MANILA, Philippines–Davao Aguilas-University of Makati moved a step closer toward completing a Cinderella run after a 1-1 tie over Dynamic Herb Cebu in the second leg of the semis on Friday was enough to seal a 2-1 aggregate win and a spot in the final of the Copa Paulino Alcantara against Kaya-Iloilo.
A screamer from Paolo Bugas late in the second half allowed the Aguilas, the only team outside of the Philippines Football League that is still alive, to get the cushion they needed to stun the favored Gentle Giants in a heated tie at Rizal Memorial Stadium, setting a rematch of the 2018 title clash with Kaya.
Kaya earlier took down Stallion-Laguna, 4-2 on aggregate, to reach the championship game for the fifth time in as many editions.
The Aguilas came to the domestic cup tournament, expanded to a record field of 17 to allow amateur, collegiate and Armed Forces teams to participate, with little to no expectations of making a deep run.
But Davao finished second in Group C and eliminated CF Manila, another non-PFL side, in the quarterfinals.
Davao won the first leg, 1-0, on Troy Limbo’s first-half goal.
Cebu fell short of making the final for the third straight time and will face Stallion once more in a match for third place.
The Gentle Giants tried to draw level in the tie, but the Aguilas were resolute on the defensive side, with goalkeeper Dino Ouattara making several saves.
Davao later capitalized on the advantage in manpower after a second yellow card sent off Baris Tasci in the second half, and Bugas produced a spectacular goal near the midline to the surprise of Cebu keeper Jun Badelic.
Tempers flared during stoppage time after an attempt by Cebu’s Kintaro Hama to pull the shirt of a fallen Kart Talaroc of Davao, prompting players and coaches from both clubs to enter the pitch.
Cebu’s Ivan Ouano scored a late goal once the game resumed to trim the Davao lead to one, but it didn’t take long for the final whistle to be blown.