A hattrick from Phil Younghusband powered Loyola Meralco Sparks FC on dismantling Pachanga-Diliman FC, 5-2, to keep in pace with other league members on the hunt for a second-place finish, Wednesday evening, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Loyola started pouncing on the attack the moment they wrestled for possession right after kickoff, while Pachanga was ready for the counterattack. Furthermore, the visitors had the first chance to break the deadlock at the third minute. Nathan Octavio connected with Jinggoy Valmayor at the right flank, who was then fouled outside the penalty area. The resulting free kick was deflected, but only up to Pachanga-Diliman Captain Hamed Hajimehdi. The Iranian midfielder fired the ball into the net for the go-ahead goal.
The white-shirts pushed for the equalizer thereafter; nonetheless, the defense cleared them for corner kicks. At the 13th minute, Loyola finally levelled the match with a goal against the run of play. Brad Grayson found Phil Younghusband, who slid the ball passed the opposing keeper, Ace Villanueva. That was not the end of the barrage of opportunities for the Sparks, which would have been converted into goals, if not for the excellent defending of Pachanga-Diliman Fullback, Reuben Silitonga. After a series of near-goals, the home team was again rewarded with a goal. At the 26th minute, P. Younghusband doubled the lead when he collected a pass from Charlie Beaton at the edge of the box and effortlessly launched a shot into the onion bag.
Pachanga-Diliman did not roll up and surrender, as they pushed for a tying goal in the next few minutes. Seven minutes from the half-hour mark, Hossein Doustdarsefidmazgi immediately had an impact after coming in for Daniel Gadia. Doustdarsefidmazgi delivered a through ball to Valmayor, who shot the ball to Loyola’s custodian Saba Sadeghi Garmaroudi. Saba was able to gather the ball, but spilled it. Moreover, Stephen Permanes took advantage of the mishap and guided the ball to the back of the net to put the match, once again, into a stalemate at 2-apiece.
The deadlock would not last long, however. In the ensuing play, Loyola’s returning skipper, James Younghusband, saved the ball from going out, and instead delivered it into the box. Adam Mitter beat Villanueva for the header to reclaim the lead for the white-shirts. The scoreline, 3-2, would stay as Pachanga-Diliman muffed consequent attempts by the leading side.
It was a different second half, as Loyola Meralco flexed their muscles on their opponents. The white-shirts dominated the possession, which they turned into offensive chances. At the 54th minute, Pachanga-Diliman had their final decent attempt of the match. Jinggoy Valmayor almost made Loyola’s defense pay off a botched clearance, but the burly striker could not get to the ball.
At the following sequence, Loyola again doubled their lead. P. Younghusband found Grayson on the run, and the latter easily slotted the ball for his team’s fourth goal of the match.
What followed was an uneventful few minutes as neither team had clear attempts and both squads were called for offside infractions. It was not until six minutes from end of regulation that another goal was scored. Tahj Minniecon found P. Younghusband, who tapped the ball into the back of the net and completed his hattrick, and sealed the deal for the Loyola Meralco Sparks. The final whistle was sounded with the Sparks winning emphatically 5-2 over Pachanga-Diliman. The win pushed Loyola Meralco to a triple-tie for second place with Kaya and Global.
Loyola Head Coach Simon McMenemy was generally pleased with his wards performance. The only drawback, shared the long-time Sparks mentor, was that, “We conceded silly goals.” He, however, stated that what is important now is for them to get the win to increase their chances to lock the second spot. McMenemy concluded, “At this stage, what is important is three points [a win].”
The hunt for three points will continue for Loyola when they face Manila Jeepney FC on Sunday, July 26. Pachanga-Diliman, on the other hand, will battle the same team after a long rest, on the following Sunday, August 2.