A Loyola Meralco side with a rejigged defense once again brandished its usual dominant offense as it walloped Cimarron, 10-0, on Tuesday night to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals of the United Football League Cup at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
Phil Younghusband registered a hat-trick, Chad Gould and James Younghusband fired a brace, while Lee Joo Young and Matthew Hartmann chipped in a goal apiece as the Sparks, who also benefited from an own goal from the opposition, arranged a last-eight meeting with Pachanga-Diliman.
While the offense has been humming, it’s the Sparks defense that has been a key factor in all their victories, including the 33-0 demolition of Blue Guards in the group stage, as they have yet to concede a goal in the tournament.
The arrival of quality defenders in Spaniard Joaco Cañas and African Sam Bonney as well as goalkeeper Baba Sampana has everything to do with that.
“Joaco and Sam have a good understanding with each other. But it’s not just the two of them. Baba (Sampana) has been good for us on goal and system-wise, I think we’ve been a little bit more disciplined than we used to,” Sparks coach Vince Santos said.
Their presence has given the Sparks the luxury to thrust centerback Gould up front as another scoring option, along with other new acquisition Lee, who all have made life easier for Phil Younghusband.
“We’re very fortunate to have them. But it’s also the defense. It all starts in the back,” Younghusband said. “Credit to our (defense that has produced) five clean sheets now and has given us confidence.”
James Younghusband opened the scoring four minutes into the game with a curling free kick of a beauty, before Cimarron scored an own goal six minutes later.
Gould then headed home a Hartmann cross, before Lee joined the scoring parade in the 20th. Phil Younghusband scored his first goal off another Hartmann assist in the 23rd, before Gould completed his brace off Phil five minutes before stoppage time.
The Sparks sustained their onslaught in the second half with Phil scoring off the rebound in 66th. After a handful of assists, Hartmann was at the receiving end of one in the 74th, before James and Phil Younghusband completed the rout with their respective conversions.