Loyola Meralco Sparks whip Myanmar sideBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SINGAPORE—The Loyola Meralco Sparks’ return to fiery form couldn’t have come at a better time.
Determined to put behind a disappointing United Football League season, the Sparks moved on the brink of making the semifinals in their maiden appearance in the RHB Singapore Cup after a 3-1 win over nine-man Kanbawza of Myanmar Thursday night here.
Goals from brothers Phil and James Younghusband and Mark Hartmann, as the UFL third placers used quick counterattacks, put the Burmese side to the sword amid a tense atmosphere at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The second leg is set Sunday with the Sparks hoping to avoid at least a two-goal loss to advance against the winner between Albirex Niigata, a Japanese side playing in the Singapore League, and S-League side Tampines Rovers.
“It’s a job half done because we still have to worry about Sunday,” said Loyola Meralco president Randy Roxas. “But we bounced back (after the UFL) and that shows a lot of character.”
Kanbawza dominated the early exchanges with two chances in the first 10 minutes, but it was Phil Younghusband who found the breakthrough after fine work from Hartmann and Korean midfielder Byeong Jeong-yeol.
Kanbawza went down to 10 men just before halftime after Hia Htwe was red-carded for hitting James Younghusband. Substitute Kyaw Zayar Win was also sent off in the 68th for his second yellow card.
Hartmann doubled the lead in the 62nd minute from close range after a cross from Phil Younghusband.
After Kanbawza pulled a goal back through a Soe Min Oo header in the 75th, James Younghusband put the outcome beyond doubt in stoppage time with an emphatic finish off another scintillating linkup play with Phil.
The match that drew close to 1,500 spectators was stopped for five minutes in the second half after furious Kanbawza fans hurled objects into the pitch.