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UFL Cup 2015: Stallion FC force debuting Loyola Meralco Sparks FC to stalemate

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One goal apiece in each half for Loyola Meralco Sparks FC and Stallion FC punctuated an intense matchup that ended in a draw, 1-1, as Group C action of the 2015 United Football League (UFL) Cup continued, Saturday, May 9 at Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

The Sparks started well on the offense at the start of the match. At the 3rd minute mark, this aggression forced Stallion’s David Basa to foul, but the resulting free kick from the debutants would not be a threat. Two minutes after, it was Stallion’s turn to get a crack at goal. Midfielder Simone Rota found Christian Nana for an attempt, only to be denied by Loyola Meralco Sparks’ goalkeeper Tomas Trigo. Eight minutes into the half, Loyola’s Simon Greatwich connected with fellow Azkals mainstay Phil Younghusband, who broke through the defense and slotted the ball for the go-ahead goal. It was Greatwich’s final moment of brilliance in this game as he suffered an injury at the 10th minute mark, bringing his team to a man down for that moment.

It was a see-saw match from there as both Division I teams tried to build up on attack. In the 13th minute, Loyola’s keeper Trigo denied a bicycle kick attempt at goal of Jordan Mintah. That try by Mintah triggered the Sparks to pressure the opposing defense. On the ensuing play, Tahj Minniecon took a corner, which the leading team failed to convert. On the one hand, Stallion missed on two chances to equalize coming from free kicks at the 29th and 30th minute. The home side, on their part, also could not capitalize on their opportunities. The first half ended with the Sparks holding a precarious 1-0 lead.

Riding on a sense of urgency, Stallion FC entered the second half on a mission. After a botched attempt by Sparks’ Minniecon at the left wing in the 50th minute, the trailing squad picked up the pace and resumed on pressuring Loyola. Nana broke free from the defense and fired a shot to the bottom corner that Trigo promptly collected. After that play, Ruben Doctora also tried to score. The speedy striker attempted a booming shot, only to be blocked by Loyola defender Joaquin Cañas. Stallion kept on shooting but their shots were either wide or over the bar.

Loyola could have doubled their lead at the 63rd minute; however, Curt Dizon failed to connect off a pass from James Younghusband. Two minutes after, Stallion’s Mintah collected a pass from the middle and forced Sparks’ custodian Trigo to commit. The winger passed the ball to Doctora, who tapped it into the net for the equalizer. The physicality or the game continued and fouls piled up. With several opportunities on both sides, neither team could get a winning goal. The match ended with one goal apiece for both Division I mainstays.

Loyola Meralco Sparks Coach Simon McMenemy expressed his disappointed on his team’s performance. The former men’s national team mentor said, “We were dominant in the first half, but in the second half, we made silly, ridiculous mistakes.” McMenemy cited that the team needs to work on their organization on the floor to prevent those mistakes in their next matches.

Stallion FC Team Manager Ernie Nierras echoed his opposite number’s observations. The most recent women’s national team coach, however, felt that they played toe-to-toe with their fellow Division I team in the first half. Nierras explained they made adjustments for the second half and his wards executed and got the goal.

Loyola Meralco Sparks FC will try to bounce back against Mendiola FC 1991 on Saturday, May 16, while Stallion FC will attempt to get their second win of the group when they take on UST FC in the following game.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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