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UCFC posts historic win

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MARK Hartmann (left) and Bienvenido Marañon shine as United City FC becomes the first Filipino side to win in the AFC Champions League. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF AFC

United City FC (UCFC) proved that they belong in Asia’s biggest stage after nailing a 3-2 comeback victory over Beijing Guoan FC in the AFC Champions League in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The four-time Philippine Football League (PFL) champion made history by becoming the first Filipino team to grab a win in the prestigious continental tournament.

The victory lifted UCFC to third place of Group I with four points from its 1-3-1 record in the group stage.

“We are getting to that area now where the strength and depth comes to our squad,” UCFC head coach Jason Withe said.

“We wanted to play at this level. And if you want to play at this level, you got to step your game up against the best players in Asia.”

Striker Mark Hartmann was at his best as he delivered the game-winning shot in the 80th minute of the match.

Facing a 0-2 hole in the first half, the Filipino side managed to score its first goal through Hartmann, who expertly sent a free-kick past Beijing’s goalkeeper in the 59th minute.

Then, AFC Cup all-time scorer Bienvenido Marañon took advantage of the scramble inside the box and tapped the ball in the 69th minute to tie the count at 2-2.

UCFC continued its barrage as skipper Stephan Schrock led a counter-attack that gave Hartmann the chance to hammer a breakaway goal with barely 10 minutes left in the match.

For Withe, their much-needed victory definitely showed their grit and determination despite a three-game losing skid.

Withe and his wards are looking to go all-out in their final group stage match against Daegu FC of South Korea on 11 July.

“We’re not here to be passengers and just enjoy the experience. We are here to try to beat them,” Withe added.

“We are going to embrace the challenge and look forward to it. We’ll go through some tactical work and we’ll look at what the opposition will bring to the table.”

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