Goals from brothers James and Phil Younghusband helped Loyola Meralco Sparks keep at pace for second place by downing Manila Jeepney FC, 2-0, early Sunday evening at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Wanting to stay in the hunt for that runner-up finish, Loyola Meralco Sparks immediately began the game in an aggressive manner, and, in the fifth minute, scored the go-ahead goal. Curt Dizon, while in their attacking third, launched a cross towards James Younghusband inside the the box. The older of the Younghusband brothers towered over the defense and headed in the ball.
A back-and-forth play ensued as Manila Jeepney wanted to answer quickly, while the Sparks fought to increase their goal count and lessen the gap in goal difference between themselves and fellow second-seeded teams. Both squads had decent chances at goal, but none would threaten either side’s goal keepers. A collision between the Los Manileños’ Team Captain, Rodrigue Nembot, and Loyola Defender, Anthony Putrus-Schell, almost gave Meralco a chance to double their lead. After the collision, Manila Jeepney’s Khosro Safarian was awarded a free kick that only rolled as far as Meralco’s defensive wall. The rebounded ball led the Sparks to counter attack with Tahj Minnecon leading the way. The Australian dribbled the ball past the heavy defense, but sadly was not able to launch the ball past Jeepney custodian, RJ Joyel, due to a last minute tackle that forced him to be subbed out. In their succeeding possession, Dizon was able to weave past Jeepney’s defense and pass the ball to the substitute Graham Caygill inside the box. The Fil-British Forward, however, was not able to put enough force on the shot and only had the ball roll safely to the hands of Joyel.
The game became more heated three minutes before the half-time whistle when Phil Younghusband unintentionally fouled Jeepney’s Korean Midfielder, Park Su Hyun. The consequent free kick was launched, but caused a scuffle between Azkal Dizon, Reymart Cubon, and both the teams’ coaches. The kerfuffle ended the half at 1-0 with Cubon awarded a yellow card.
The start of the second half began with the Los Manileños trying to force another deadlock, only for Koffi Kouassi being called for an offside. From that point on, the Sparks defensive intensity would only increase, which helped them grab the ball from their opponents in numerous occasions. Despite being able to get chances off of their great defense, none of Loyola’s attempts threatened Jeepney custodian Joyel. It was not until the 70th minute that Meralco tallied their second goal. Simon Greatwich, nabbed the ball off a Jeepney defender and, skillfully passed the ball to a speeding Phil Younghusband. The Philippine international, despite being well defended, skillfully rolled the ball in between the legs of Goalkeeper Joyel and into the net.
Once more, an exchange of possession followed that led to more chances for both teams. Unfortunately, neither team could break through the opposing defense. The exchange, however, caused the American Putrus-Schnell to be sent out of the pitch for receiving his second yellow card. Their decrease in number did not lessen the Sparks’ defensive intensity and hold of the lead till the end of the game.
Loyola Meralco Sparks Head Coach elaborated on how important it was getting the win. “The performance is a lesser priority, it is about winning the game today. This fight for second place is between three, maybe four teams, so it’s just important to win,” he said. He believes that at this stage of the season all the teams want to get in a higher position and will make it difficult for them to win.
Loyola Meralco Sparks FC will next face fellow second-seed chasers, Global FC on Wednesday, July 29, while Manila Jeepney FC will face Pachanga-Diliman FC on Sunday, August 2.