By Karlo Sacamos
AN undermanned and banged-up Loyola Meralco side settled for a goalless draw against Kaya FC in another United Football League match marred by spotty officiating on Tuesday night at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
Left without starters Joaco Cañas and Jake Morallo due to measles, and Bo Bae Park to another injury, and with Phil Younghusband and Freddy Gonzalez nursing their own injuries, the Sparks had to make do with a makeshift lineup to fend off a tough challenge from Kaya.
In the end, both clubs earned a point, with the Sparks staying atop the standings with 20 points and Kaya just four points behind in third place.
“We’ll take it,” Sparks coach Vince Santos said. “Considering what we had, I think we’re okay with one point.”
While remaining undefeated, the Sparks, however, will suffer a loss at the start of the second round when they will be without Younghusband, who was shown a red card by referee Joel Lamboson after the final whistle, apparently for abusive language.
“I was happy with our performance,” Kaya coach David Perkovic said. “I would’ve loved a goal — don’t get me wrong — but the next time we play them, I know who’s going to be confident: me and our boys.”
The scoreline hardly reflected how thrilling the marquee matchup was, with Kaya grabbing the lion’s share of possession and almost getting rewarded.
Kaya’s Richard Greer missed a free-kick attempt that hit the left post, while Younghusband missed his own strike that hit the crossbar.
Chris Greatwich also missed a penalty attempt for Kaya after an earlier conversion that was ruled out after Lamboson ordered a retake.
“The best players in the world miss penalties,” Perkovic said. “Chris had a fantastic performance today and it doesn’t take anything away from his performance.”
“I would like to know why the first one didn’t count,” the Australian mentor was quick to add. “I didn’t see anyone encroaching on the box. I kind of feel sorry for Chris because he heard the whistle, took the penalty, and scored.”
Perkovic also lamented a non-call on what appeared to be a foul drawn by OJ Porteria, who had to change to another pair of shoes after one shoe from his first pair got destroyed following a challenge by Yves Ashime.
“OJ got fouled and this was the evidence,” Perkovic said, referring to the destroyed shoe. “If that foul was that bad, how does the ref miss that?”
“He didn’t get the ball. He got my foot. It was clear because I kept the ball and had another chance to shoot,” Porteria explained.
Nursing a bruised ankle that caused him to miss training the whole week, Younghusband came in just eight minutes before second-half stoppage time and tried to make an impact
And the Sparks star striker will have to miss some more time with a looming suspension after he was shown a questionable red card after the game.
“I was just walking by (Lamboson) — I wasn’t even facing him — about two meters away from him, basically telling him, ‘You don’t know the rules. How can you ref when you don’t know the rules?’” Younghusband said.
“When you got two sides that really want to win and the referees deciding the game, it’s so frustrating and so emotional. Nearly every game, there’s a decision that changes the game.”