Loyola Meralco faces uphill climb vs RoversBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LOYOLA Meralco faces tough odds as it tries to overturn a two-goal deficit against Singapore League powerhouse Tampines Rovers in the second leg of their Singapore Cup semifinal duel tonight at Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.
The Sparks vowed for an improved performance against the Stags, after watching veteran striker Aleksandar Duric and attacking midfielder Ahmad Latiff find the back of the net in the opening leg at Clementi Stadium Thursday.
James Younghusband, who was recovering from flu early this week, and Mark Hartmann are expected to get the start after coming off the bench in the first leg as the Sparks chase an early goal to stay in the thick of the fight.
But the Sparks will miss Korean centerback Kim Woo-chul who will sit out the match after incurring two yellow cards in the first leg.
Phil Younghusband—Loyola’s leading scorer in the UFL last season—said all is not lost for the Sparks, who are the only foreign side standing in the 16-team tournament.
The Sparks have never lost at the Jalan Besar Stadium, where they are expected to get strong support from the Filipino community there.
“Jalan Besar has been like a home field for us,” said James Younghusband, who has played for the national side also in the JBS.
“With a score of 2-0, there is still a possibility,” said Phil. “We need an early goal in the second leg.”
Defender Chad Gould said the Sparks can take heart at their performance in the first leg.
“Honestly, we thought they were going to completely destroy us, but we held strong,” the former Filipino international said.
Gould had a goal disallowed in the first leg after Kim took the free kick that he headed home without getting the go-signal from the referee.
Loyola midfielder Anto Gonzales said cutting the supply to the Tampines forwards, particularly to Duric, will be the key.
“I think we paid a lot of attention to Duric in the first leg and we didn’t close down the source of the balls,” said Gonzales.