Depleted Sparks stall Stallion party with draw

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A resolute Loyola Meralco side played the spoiler’s role to the hilt as it stalled Stallion’s coronation by holding the United Football League Cup winners to a 1-1 draw on a rainy Tuesday night at Emperador Stadium in Taguig City.

Sparks goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma proved magnificent in between the posts, after James Younghusband cancelled out an early strike from Lee Joo Young as the shorthanded Sparks, already out of the running from the title race as early as two weeks ago, refused to wilt until the final whistle.

Victory would have meant a rare Cup and League double for Stallion, but the Sparks, who missed seven players from their regular starting eleven due to injuries and national team commitments, proved tough to break down.

It was the only draw of the season for Stallion, which finished with 46 points built on 15 victories.

The result gave Global’s title hopes a lifeline. The defending champions, with 40 points, can still edge Stallion for the crown if they sweep their games starting tonight against Kaya and  relegation-threatened Army next week.

Global actually needs to win by a combined six goals in the next two matches to also overhaul Stallion’s advantage on goal difference.

Lee put Stallion on top in the 18th minute with a powerful strike from the right. Play was stopped for 30 minutes as pitch conditions worsened because of the downpour.

When action resumed, the Sparks came out more aggressive and were rewarded by Younghusband’s header three minutes into first half stoppage time.

In the first match, Green Archers United drubbed Nomads, 4-2.

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