Phil Younghusband continuously proves that he is back with his dangerous scoring mettle.
The latest Azkals captain led the Loyola Meralco Sparks FC to a 13-2 domination of Laos FC, as the club soared to third place in the 2016 United Football League, Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
It did not take long for the orange shirts to break the ice. Winger Curt Dizon found some space on the left flank and blasted one in with a little under a minute into the game.
The Sparks constantly probed the Laos defense and were denied countless times by timely clearances from the latter. The inevitable second goal, however, finally came in the 15th minute. Phil Younghusband barrelled through the defense and guided the ball past Jhun Tripulca for a 2-0 lead.
Seconds after, with the ball still on their half of the pitch, Phil and his elder brother James Younghusband used some nifty passing to confuse the opponents. The latter then fired from outside the box and pushed the advantage to three.
The yellow shirts were not devoid of chances once they got space to operate. In the 21st minute, Ryan Buenaflor was just denied by Sparks’ keeper Tommy Trigo on his attempt to finish off an Aaron Altiche pass. In the ensuing corner kick, captain Altiche whipped the ball into the box and Vincent Gambana this time breached Trigo’s guard and put Laos on the scoreboard.
The celebration would not last long, however, as moments from that Gambana goal, teammate Alhassan Mohammedu fouled Phil Younghusband inside the penalty area. Phil Younghusband then converted the consequent penalty kick to restore Loyola’s three-goal cushion, 4-1.
Loyola relentlessly attacked Laos’ backline, forcing the latter to commit fouls. Another hard challenge, this time from Laos’ John Bastasa resulted to another goal for the Sparks. Phil Younghusband sent the ensuing free kick into the box, and Bastasa’s attempt at a clearance instead rolled into the goal. Loyola’s lead reached 5-1.
The Younghusbands’ connection clicked once more at the 37th minute. Phil back heeled James’ return pass past Tripulca for a 6-1 advantage and a hat trick. Four minutes after and four minutes into the half, Alvaro Castiella joined in the parade with a breakaway goal. The orange-shirts virtually sealed the game at the half, 7-1.
The second half was no different as the Sparks continued to pour in goals. After being denied of an assist at the start of the period, Castiella took matters to his own hands with a vicious strike past Tripulca for his brace at the 49th minute. James Younghusband then registered his own brace a minute after with a similar long-range shot.
Head Coach Simon McMenemy then brought in some fresh legs for the orange-shirts. In between all this changes, either team scored. Dizon likewise punched in his second of the afternoon with a left-footed finish on a rebound at the 56th minute. Three minutes after, before Laos’ Hamed Hajimahdi whipped in a lovely curving shot, punishing Loyola’s momentary lapse on defense.
Laos FC’s keeper change paid dividends for a while as Oliver Moreno denied successive attempts from Dizon and Phil Younghusband. At the 63rd minute, however, Phil Younghusband would not be denied this time and converted a Tahj Minniecon support for his fourth of the match.
Even substitutes Daniel Gadia and Jinggoy Valmayor proved dangerous for the Sparks, only Moreno denied their attempts to add on to the tally.
Wing back Kou Ichi Belgira then saved his teammates’ frustrations as he himself picked off Loyola’s utter dominance. Belgira scored his first-ever goal for the club at the 74th minute as he finished off a Dizon pass as the advantage reached double digits, 12-2.
After repeated advances that went for naught, Phil Younghusband fittingly closed out the match. Valmayor’s effort along the goal line was checked, but his forward ball reached the younger Younghusband. The quadruple goal scorer then blasted the rolling ball into the goal for the final goal of the match.
McMenemy was visibly pleased with how his wards played more aggressively in this match. He said, “All week long, we are working on unlocking doors, trying to give little passes in, little ‘give-and-go’s, little one-touch football, and that’s the end result.” McMenemy added, “What’s really nice, for once, as a coach, I’m able to say that everything we did in training this week was put into the game. And you can see what we did in training by the difference between last week’s game and this week’s game.”
Loyola Meralco Sparks FC looks to continue their strides towards the top spot when they face Manila Nomads SC on July 3, the next Sunday at 1:45pm. Laos FC looks to bounce back as they battle Forza FC the day before, July 2, also at 1:45pm.
*Photo courtesy of UFLPhilippines