*Photo Courtesy of UFL
Loyola Meralco Sparks Football Club started the 2016 United Football League second round in the best way possible by enjoying a 5-1 win against Forza FC yesterday (August 6, 2016) at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
Goals from Alvaro Castiella (53′), Phil Younghusband (55′ & 58), Kou Belgira (73′) and Gerardo Valmayor (90+2′) sealed the win for Meralco, although it was Forza’s Lionel Ndoe Mekong (23′) who drew first blood in the game. Aside from the goals, the game saw two red cards for Forza. Forza players Ndoe Mekong and Nicolas Ferrer Jr were both ejected in the second half.
As the pre-game favorites, Meralco wasted no time in looking for a goal. The Younghusband brothers posed danger for Forza and a mixture of last-ditch defending and wide shooting prevented an early goal in the opening minutes of the game. Forza goalie Abu Ibrahim was then forced to make a fine save against Phil Younghusband’s free kick.
Meralco’s dominance was such that some good interplay from the Sparks opened up Forza’s defense. Belgira laid the ball off to Castiella whose eventual attempt on goal unluckily hit the post. Forza were lucky at that point and got luckier minutes later.
For most of the first half, Forza only had half chances towards the Meralco goal. The Sparks held them at arm’s length, only for Forza to break through after some individual brilliance from Arvin Gaspe. Gaspe eluded Meralco defenders and passed the ball to an open Ndoe Mekong who easily scored at the 23rd minute.
That luck of Forza extended to the end of the first half. Ibrahim once again foiled a Phil Younghusband free kick. Afterwards, James Younghusband hit the post then the follow up from Phil Younghusband was saved by Ibrahim. Forza incredibly secured a 0-1 lead at the break.
Come the second half, Meralco got the goals they fully deserved. The Sparks adjusted tactically by waiting to force a counterattack. For Forza, though, they started the period the worst way when Ndoe Mekong was given a red card for stomping on Meralco’s Anto Gonzales six minutes after the restart.
Ndoe Mekong’s ejection proved to be the turning point of the game as Meralco soon leveled the scores thanks to Castiella at the 53rd minute. Meralco finally opened Forza’s floodgates and the goals came quick. Phil Younghusband finally got the goals he deserved at the 56th and 58th minutes with a free kick and accurate strike respectively to seal the game for the Sparks.
Down 1-3 at this point in the game, the last thing Forza needed was to see another one of their players ejected. Nevertheless, that scenario did occur as Ferrer was given his marching orders after incurring a second yellow card.
Against nine players, Meralco sought to add to their tally. A dominant performance was rounded off by goals from Belgira whose 73rd minute strike crept past Ibrahim and a Valmayor goal at the 90+2 minute which came from a James Younghusband assist. After ninety minutes, Meralco secured a comprehensive 5-1 victory over Forza.
The result allowed Meralco to climb the league table at 3rd place with 27 points while Forza had to make do at 9th place and 10 points.
Meralco coach Simon McMenemy commented after the game, “The first half, we’ve been trying some new things in training. It’s more of preparation for further games as opposed to the game we just played. Second half, obviously we have to come in and win the game and I was always confident we could do that. We came out and scored five goals quite comfortable in the second half. I don’t think the result was ever in doubt even at one-nil down at halftime. We were never really worried with the greatest of respect.“