James Younghusband fired a hattrick as the Loyola Meralco Sparks notched its second straight win with a 3-1 thumping of Stallion last Sunday even as Green Archers United scored a breakthrough victory in the 2016 United Football League at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The Sparks also needed a string of saves from goalkeeper Tommy Trigo early on, before Younghusband knocked in two goals late in the first half and completed his hattrick with 11 minutes to boost Loyola’s tally to six points from two matches.
“James Younghusband was just fantastic today,” said Sparks coach Simon McMenemy, who continued to miss injured striker Phil Younghusband.
“We’ve responded very well after a disappointing Cup run,” said Younghusband. “Everyone has been tremendous, positive and we’re pleased with the way we started this campaign.”
It was Stallion’s second straight loss, counting its 2-4 defeat to Global last week.
Still struggling to find their best form, Green Archers slipped past Pasargad, 2-1, thanks to goals from newcomer Chima Uzoka and Jess Melliza in the earlier kickoff played in sweltering conditions.
Pasargad showed plenty of fight, pulling a goal back through substitute Joseph Fermin, setting the stage for a nervy last 10 minutes for Archers who were held to a 1-1 draw by Forza last May 1.
“We were controlling the game, but we couldn’t finish,” said Archers coach Rodolfo Alicante, who missed skipper Chieffy Caligdong due to injury. “We had some problems in the end but Im glad we were able to come away with three points.”
GAU climbed to fourth in the table with four points, while Pasargad remained winless in two matches.
The Sparks came into the match full of confidence after an impressive 3-2 win over defending champions Ceres in their league opener last April 30.
But after a wasted opportunity from Sparks winger Curt Dizon, it was Stallion which created majority of the chances in an entertaining first half with Nathan Alquiros and Balot Doctora forcing fine saves from Trigo.
Younghusband broke the deadlock against the run of play three minutes before halftime. Picking up Tahj Minniecon’s throw in on the left, Younghusband cut inside before firing a curling effort to the near post past Ref Cuaresma.
Younghusband grabbed his second in first half stoppage time, showing grit and determination to slot home inside the box after Stallion struggled to clear Minniecon’s cross off a short corner kick.
Stallion trimmed the gap, 1-2, on Jim Ashley Flores’ header off Alquiros’ corner kick in the 64th minute, but Younghusband wrapped up the victory with a solid strike from 20 yards out after he was given time and space by the Stallion defense.
“Stallions is always a tough team to play against,” said McMenemy. “They play strong and direct football and make it very difficult. But we’ve been working very very hard in training to stay tight, disciplined and I think if you work very hard, good things happen to you.”
McMenemy added: “They (Stallion) had a couple of chances in the first half, and we were fortunate enough to take ours. Second half was all about managing the game until the end.”
“The first three games are a bit daunting but as we’ve moved forward, we’ve gotten stronger and just pleased at the way the boys have been fighting.”