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Loyola erases Global lead to share spoils in gripping battle



The Loyola Meralco Sparks overcame a 2-0 first-half deficit and a last-minute penalty to earn a significant stalemate over Global FC in both teams’ penultimate United Football League (UFL) Division I match at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

Loyola sniffed a couple of openings early on thanks to the gritty effort of Bradley Grayson. On both occasions, the Englishman linked up with Phil Younghusband, who managed to fire one harmlessly in the first half-chance. Shortly after that, Phil found himself in a good position inside the box but Grayson’s cross was too strong for him to get to. Unfortunately for the Sparks, two half-chances do not make a full-chance.

During the first eight minutes of the contest, Global rarely got hold of the ball within Loyola’s 18-yard box. However, once they had it there, they made their chances count. At the ninth minute, Global was awarded a free kick along the box. Daisuke Sato delivered the ball which landed in front of Masaki Yanagawa. The defender’s shot was palmed out by Tomas Trigo. Luckily for Global, Izo El Habbib was nicely positioned to head in the rebound, putting Global ahead quickly.

After taking the lead, Global looked comfortable in limiting Loyola’s activity in the attacking third. They did it by pushing more forward whenever they could, despite them also playing quite unproductively on the offensive. Misagh Bahadoran smartly exposed James Younghusband, who has been playing as a right back in the past two games of Loyola. Before the half-hour mark, he initially dispossessed his national team colleague before the elder Younghusband brother recovered with a nicely-timed tackle. Not long afterwards, Bahadoran got the better of James again. This time around, the Global captain made no mistake. Seeing acres of space, Bahadoran marched swiftly into the box before tucking the ball in from a tight angle which left Trigo and the Sparks’ defense helpless anew.

Down by two goals, Loyola persevered to get their way back into the game. A fine attacking spell at the 39th minute ended with Phil shooting the ball on target but instead of changing the score, he won his team a valuable corner as it was deflected by Masaki Yanagawa. What they were aiming for came as a result of such play when James’ cross from the corner reached Joaco Cañas. The Spanish defender’s header did not find the back of the net but Grayson tipped the ball in anyway to make it 2-1. It stayed that way after the break.

After the restart, Loyola played dominantly with the ball. Throughout the second half, they appeared to score each time they got to advance the ball into Global’s defensive third. Patiently building up their offense, the Sparks were rewarded once more ten minutes into the closing period of the match. From another corner, this time taken by Phil, Cañas got to shoot with his head. It was deemed on target but Grayson’s clever intervention of the ball caught everyone in the Global defense wrong-footed. As a result, the in-form striker netted his second goal of the night to level the score at two apiece.

Numerous set pieces in dangerous areas of the pitch were given to both sides but unlike the four times wherein they scored, nothing produced a genuine threat in the last 35 minutes or so of the heated contest. Instead, Loyola produced dynamic open play sequences which caught Global off guard a couple of times. Three minutes after the hour mark, Phil broke free of his marker with a neat touch to knock the ball forward. After earning a sizeable amount of room, the striker only had Roland Sadia between him and the goal. To Sadia’s relief, Phil’s attempt drifted away from the net. Problems did not end there for Sadia and Global’s back line as five minutes after that, Phil teamed up with Grayson who nearly rounded up a glorious hattrick. The Loyola striker timed his run well to meet Phil’s delicate through ball inside the box. However, his effort went a couple of inches to the left of the goal post.

Football is not called a cruel game for nothing. Loyola nearly felt robbed despite bossing the action towards the end. At the last minute of the match, Eddie Mallari wrongfully impeded OJ Clarino inside the box, conceding a penalty to Global. Sato bravely stepped up, but was denied by fellow Azkal Trigo, who effectively saved the day for McMenemy’s end.

Both managers believed their respective squads played well at certain periods of the match, which sums up the bipolar nature of the meeting. Reflected by Global’s 2-1 lead at halftime, Leigh Manson claimed that his team should have not needed the penalty to win the match. Quite disappointed, he said, “we dominated the first half but we let them back in.” He attributed his team’s downhill performance to what he described as atrocious marking which led to Loyola’s two goals in the match.

On the other side of the pitch, Simon McMenemy exclaimed, “We didn’t deserve to lose today.” Noting the team’s previous misfortunes, he felt that his team deserved to get some of it with Trigo figuring out Sato’s spot kick late in the game. A draw was flattering after such circumstance but the Loyola boss reckoned that the exemplary performance of the team in the second half should have gained them more than what they got at the end of the day. “We dominated the game in the second half. It was us causing problems. The way we came back from two goals were very pleasing. I thought we were the better team in this game,” he declared.

Still tied on points, Global and Loyola need to get maximum points on Saturday. Loyola have the chance to put pressure on Global if they beat a pesky Green Archers United team. After that match, Manson’s men will aim for a win against Fabian Lewis’ Kaya on the night cap to seal second place. McMenemy and the rest of the Loyola crew may turn Kaya fans for a mere 90 minutes of football as they hope to finish above last season’s champions.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win



Rene Catalan continues to turn critics into believers

Filipino fighter Rene Catalan made his sixth appearance inside the ONE Championship cage at ONE: Kings of Courage, held at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, Saturday evening. He faced 21-year-old Chinese athlete Peng Xue Wen in the opening main card bout, and leaned on his elite wushu skills to stop the young star at the 4:22 mark of the second round.

The victory improves Catalan’s record to 4-2 (1 NC), extends his winning streak to four, and gives him the first TKO stoppage of his martial arts career, as he bids to climb the strawweight ladder in search of the ONE Strawweight World Championship.

“The Challenger” came out in the southpaw stance to open the bout, throwing big hooks and a head kick that narrowly missed as he established the center of the cage from the start of the contest.

The Filipino landed a host of powerful strikes, including a perfectly-placed uppercut and a melee of punishing leg kicks, but Peng’s conditioning and composure kept him in the match as he looked to stand and trade with the man 18 years his elder.

Catalan picked up where he left off when the bout resumed in the second round, this time operating out of the orthodox stance, landing more leg kicks and continuing to deny Peng any space to work.

Despite his dominance on the feet, there was a brief moment of concern for the Filipino on the mat when he jumped into the Chinese wrestler’s guard mid-way through the second round, and immediately found himself in a triangle choke. But the Filipino kept his composure and managed to work himself free.

Once the fighters returned to their feet, Catalan poured on the pressure in search of a finish, and he got it with just 38 seconds remaining in the stanza.

“The Challenger” scored big with a liver shot, then unloaded a fierce flurry of punches that forced Peng onto his back foot. Another shot forced Peng to the mat, where a salvo of ground and pound from Catalan eventually forced the TKO stoppage as referee Olivier Coste stepped in to halt the contest.

Photo, story, and video from ONE Championship

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Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots



Photo by PBA Images

Gelo Alolino had his best game for the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome with 19 points, eclipsing his previous career-high of 16 markers which he made last May 21, 2017 in a loss to the Mahindra Floodbuster.

But his achievement won’t be too memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat at the hands of Paul Lee and the Magnolia Hotshots, who have now collected their third straight victory.

For the second overall pick in the regular 2016 Rookie Draft, it was all because of their failure to sustain momentum up until the game’s final buzzer.

“Sayang, nandun na. We felt na sa amin na nung dulo kaso lang ganun talaga,” rued the 24-year-old sophomore after the match, where he shot an excellent 7-of-10 from the floor.

“Breaks of the game napunta sa kabila.”

Phoenix were in contention all throughout the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But the Hotshots’ comeback skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” admitted the 6-foot floor general of their end-game collapse, which wasted their efforts in assists (21) and on defense, where they forced Magnolia to 21 turnovers.

“Kami as players talagang gusto namin bumawi coming from a loss last game sa Rain or Shine.

The Fuel Masters have now lost their second straight outing and have dropped to 2-3. And for Alolino, all they have to do is learn as much as they can from this loss, especially now that they are about to face the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel next.

“Yun nga. Medyo masakit para sa’min ‘to,” admitted the National University product.

“All we have to do is magviview ulit kami ng tape para makita kung saan kami mas pwede mag-improve as a team and bawat isa — including me.”

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Glenn Khobuntin repays Ricky Dandan’s trust with end-game heroics



FILE Photo from PBA Images

Glenn Khobuntin can finally say that he had himself a moment in the pro ranks

The National University alumnus proved his worth for the Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to their first win after a historic 16-game skid, at the expense of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

“I knew he would. I knew he would,” lauded Kia head coach Ricky Dandan of the takeover by the six-foot-four forward.

“It was a blessing he didn’t play for the first two quarters because he [came in] fresh at gigil na gigil.”

Khobuntin finished with 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting — the best game he’s had so far, not because of the numbers he posted but with the way he made them. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all onto himself.

“Hindi lang din naman ako e, kami ding lahat e,” the 26-year-old shared. “Siguro kumbaga nagka-opportunity lang, napunta sa akin yung bola kasi yun yung nasa scheme ng play so ayun.

“Thankful lang ako na-hit ko yung mga na-design na plays.”

However, the third-year pro admitted that he had been frightened during the game’s final stretch, as Rain or Shine managed to impose a serious threat by coming back from a seven-point deficit, 94-96, with just less than 22 ticks left to play.

“Kinakabahan ako kasi two minutes pa rin yun e tapos Rain or Shine yung kalaban namin,” the native of Cagayan de Oro said. “Nakita ko nakakabalik sila. Thankful lang naman ako na yung game napunta sa amin, at least natapos yung losing streak namin.”

But more than the end of their months-long slump, what Khobuntin is grateful for is the trust given to him by Dandan, who fielded him as a starter in the second half after sitting out the entirety of the first 24 minutes.

“Nag-decide siya na ako yung i-start niya so thankful ako kasi nagtiwala siya sa akin.”

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Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win



Paying a visit to Indonesia for the first time this season, Tanduay Alab Pilipinas needed time to figure the CLS Knights out before stifling the hosts in the final frame to take a 92-87 road win, Saturday evening at the GOR CLS Kertajaya in Indonesia.

This is Alab’s second straight win after losing to the Singapore Slingers last January 10.

With the win, the Philippine-based club team lifts its slate to 5-4 for solo fourth. CLS, on the other hand, dropped to 1-7 — just half a game ahead of the cellar-dwelling Formosa Dreamers.

Justin Brownlee displayed his all-around brilliance in the game, leading Alab with 36 points on 15-for-24 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.

But Alab’s bench could not sustain the effort of the starters, which meant the team was clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

Needing a spark, 40-year-old sniper Dondon Hontiveros provided for Alab, knocking down a triple that proved to be the starting point 14-2 Alab run. A jumper by Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. with 2:57 left capped the rally and gave Alab an 87-73 lead.

Hontiveros scored five of the eight Alab bench points. Fortunately for Alab, Renaldo Balkman and Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. were on point. The former tallying a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Alab’s skipper had 14 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Coach Jimmy Alapag fielded his bench afterwards, but they let the quintet of Brian Williams, Mario Wuysang, Arif Hidayat, Decorey Jones, and Sandy Kurniawan slice the lead to as low as four points. Then free throws by Oping Sumalinog with eight ticks left put CLS away for good.

Williams paced CLS with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Kurniawan added 19 markers. Indonesian legend Wuysang had 17 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Alab ends its road trip on Sunday, January 28, when it takes on the Saigon Heat at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City.

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