RUTHLESS and lethal inside the area, Rufo Sanchez bagged a brace as 10-men Stallion Sta. Lucia fought back from a goal down twice to nip Loyola Meralco, 4-2, Thursday night and regain top spot in the United Football League.
The Spanish striker proved clinical against one of the league’s strongest sides, firing home the equalizer and the go-ahead goal in the second half as Stallion finished the first round with 24 out of a possible 27 points.
In an enthralling encounter that pitted the top two strikers in the league in Sanchez and Phil Younghusband, Stallion’s Korean winger Lee Joo-young also made his mark with a sublime goal six minutes into the second half before substitute Nathan Alquiros.
Younghusband opened the scoring at the half-hour mark, eluding a defender after getting on the end of a pass from Byeong Jeong-yeol, who intercepted a lazy ball from Joaco Canas at midfield.
But Sanchez equalized with an emphatic left-footed strike after Kim Hyo-il’s free kick rattled the post in the 36th minute.
Matthew Hartmann restored the advantage for the Sparks a minute later with a close-range strike off another fine ball from Byeong, but Lee quickly leveled with a low strike from the edge of the area.
But the Sparks couldn’t find a way to break down a resolute Stallion in the second half even after defender Bervic Italia was sent off for a second yellow card.
Chieffy Caligdong knocked in all the goals including the game-winner in stoppage time as Green Archers United toppled Nomads, 2-1, for only its second win of the season.