Loyola zaps tired Global, bags Smart Club crown
Loyola Meralco showed it is more than just Phil Younghusband.
The Sparks bucked the early departure of their star striker Phil Younghusband to subdue Global, 2-0, Saturday night and snare their first PFF Smart Club Championship crown at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Tournament MVP Matthew Hartmann put the exclamation point to a workmanlike performance with his second-half strike after defender Eddie Mallari opened the scoring as the Sparks captured their first trophy since winning the UFL Cup in December 2013.
Younghusband left the game in the 15th minute due to a hamstring injury. His replacement, Graham Caygill, a Fil-British striker hoping to crack the Azkals’ lineup, showed great work rate, causing problems to the Global backline.
“It feels great,” said Loyola coach Simon McMenemy, who is best known for leading the Azkals to a breakthrough semifinal finish in the Suzuki Cup in 2010. “We have a fantastic squad here and we proved it. This game for me was the best performance of the tournament.”
The Sparks finished the tournament undefeated, beating two-time champion Ceres in the group stage, before toppling Stallion in the semifinals to set up a duel with Global, the reigning UFL league titlist.
“The team was superb,” McMenemy said. “Global threw everything at us but they didn’t look close to scoring a goal.”
Two minutes after Younghusband’s departure, the Sparks took the lead with a fine team goal created by Hartmann.
A lovely ball over the top from the former national Under-23 skipper found Roxy Dorlas behind the defense. Dorlas waited for Mallari to support the attack and the leftback came up with a composed finish to beat Patrick Deyto in the 17th minute.
Global struggled with its midfield play, surprisingly losing balls easily. The Sparks were also quick to close them down when danger looked imminent.
Sparks’ sustained pressure
Hartmann’s older brother, Matthew, gave the Sparks a two-goal cushion with a volley inside the box in the 55th minute, after a period of sustained pressure from the Sparks.
Global midfielder Yu Hoshide also had a free kick denied by the crossbar in the second half.
The victory was worth P150,000 for the Sparks, who also collected majority of the individual awards. Tomas Trigo won best goalkeeper honors and Hartmann and Joaco Canas got the nod for best midfielder and best defender, respectively.
Global striker Izzo El-Habbib was named best striker after scoring seven goals in the tournament.
Earlier, Ceres-La Salle, drawing four goals from Spanish striker Adrian Gallardo, clinched third place with a 5-0 romp over Stallion.
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