BACOLOD - When Jovin Bedic scored the winning goal in the 118th minute of the Philippines Football League's Copa Alcantara Cup final that gave Kaya FC Iloilo the title over the Davao Aguilas last month, it was perhaps the best moment of his football career.
A native of football hotbed Barotac Nuevo in Iloilo, the 28-year-old delivered a championship for his home province and cemented his spot in the national team lineup for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
Little did he know that less than a month after his magical goal in the PFL, the striker would conjure up another piece of football magic on a stage where the stakes were much higher.
Bedic's 81st-minute goal against powerhouse Thailand Wednesday night in the AFF Suzuki Cup at Panaad Stadium that salvaged a draw for the Azkals not only boosted the semifinal chances of the team, it also assured him of a place in the pantheon of Barotacnon football legends. That list includes such luminaries as Chieffy Caligdong, Ian Araneta and Yanti Barsales, all of whom have suited up for the Azkals and scored a goal in international competition.
For most of the match, it appeared that moment wouldn't even come. Bedic, who attended college in nearby West Negros College, was stuck on the bench and watching helplessly as the Azkals desperately tried to find an equalizer after the War Elephants surged ahead in the 56th minute. But finally, coach Sven-Goran Eriksson called his number and sent him in for Stephen Palla in the 78th minute.
It took him just three minutes to make his coach look like a genius. Weaving his way through the Thai defense, Bedic made a short pass to Patrick Strauss, who drew two defenders and passed it back to him. Bedic quickly gathered the ball and launched a strike between the two defenders and at the right goal post. The ball bounced to the left and into Thai keeper Chatchai Bootprom, who was off-balanced as he tried to save it. But the ball slipped out of his grasp and rolled softly into the net near the left post.
"Coach told me to be ready because he might use me," Bedic told the assembled media in a mixture of Ilonggo and Tagalog. "So I just grabbed the opportunity. I knew I had to step up. I didn't want to give up. I saw Patrick Strauss there and we ran this combination. When I turned I saw the goal and as a striker I had no choice. I had to shoot it and try to score."
Eriksson said he didn't know how his substitution would turn out, but he had seen enough of Bedic to know he could do something.
"You never know. I didn't know (that he would score) when I put him in. I've seen him in training and I've seen him in many games on video, and he's a good player. He makes things happen when he comes in. He can dribble, he's physically strong. So I'm very happy that he scored a goal."
This is Bedic's second stint with the Azkals, but his first where he delivered a goal. It's an experience he won't forget any time soon.
"As a football player, this is your dream. To play for the Philippines. I'm proud I was able to help the team and achieve our goal today. (Thailand) are the favorites in this tournament, so to score in a big game like this, I'm really proud."