Sparks, Stallion escape with close UFL wins
MANILA, Philippines—Loyola Meralco and Stallion hacked out narrow victories Sunday night to gain a share of the early lead in the United Football League at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Bucking the absence of key players, the Sparks needed a second half strike from Jamal Fenelon to nip Team Socceroo, 1-0, while national team star Simone Rota fired the only goal in the 90th minute as Stallion survived Pachanga Diliman, 1-0.
Both Loyola and Stallion joined Kaya and Ceres on top after the first weekend of hostilities. Global and Green Archers shared fifth spot with a point each after their thrilling 1-1 draw Saturday night.
The Sparks struggled to carve out openings without star striker Phil Younghusband who remained sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Socceroo put plenty of men behind the ball to frustrate Loyola but a piece of good play from Sparks skipper James Younghusband released Fenelon who rifled home what turned out to be the match winner in the 66th minute.
Socceroo had looked dangerous on the counterattack on several occasions, but the Sparks were hardly troubled for large parts of the match.
“For me that was a good result,” said Loyola coach Simon McMenemy. “Socceroo really made it difficult for us.”
Left frustrated by the brilliance of Pachanga keeper Steve Yambou for most of the evening, Stallion finally broke the deadlock thanks to Rota who bundled home from close range after Diliman failed to clear a dangerous cross from the right.