Loyola Meralco Sparks (PHI) vs SHB Champasak (LAO)
(June 1, Sunday, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Written by: Khalis Rifhan
Philippines’ outfit Loyola Meralco Sparks will be keen to better their previous two appearances in the RHB Singapore Cup as they take on Laotian’s giants SHB Champasak in the preliminary round at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Sparks’ debut in the competition two years ago saw them finishing in fourth spot, losing to Gombak United in the 3rd and 4th placing match. A year ago, they were unfortunate to be knocked out in the quarter finals 4-5 on aggregate after an intriguing against eventual finalist Tanjong Pagar United over two legs.
Their opponents in their campaign opener is Champasak who won the 2013 Lao Premier League, their first major trophy in their club’s history.
Champasak is currently second in the domestic league, levelled on 22 points with leaders HA-Attapeu FC who have a superior goal difference.
Leading the Laotian at the back is 22-year old Ketsada Souksavanh who scored for Laos national team in their 1-3 defeat to Singapore a year ago.
In midfield, they will rely heavily on Michael Bernard Segun (Nigeria) and Imbem Itubu (Congo) to provide stability and also creativity. The duo will also be responsible to provide the ammunitions to their strikers, Daniel Obo (Ghana) and Elenildo de Jesus (Brazil).
Bernard has been on scoring form of late as he snatch a hat-trick in their win over Yotha while midfielders Khonesavanh Thongchaleune and Sakda Luangsombath have put on a decent performance in their recent climb up the league table.
For Loyola coach Vincent Santos, he will be hoping that their Philippines internationals James Younghusband, Philip Younghusband and Simon Greatwich make it back in time from international duty for the match.
The trio was with the Azkals in the AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives, where they narrowly lost to Palestine 1-0 in the final on 30 May, with the winner of the tournament gaining a berth in the prestigious AFC Asian Cup next year in Australia.
But even without the Younghusbands and Greatwich, there is enough depth for Santos. Upfront they can count on former internationals Alfredo ‘Freddy’ Gonzalez who scored a hat-trick against Army FC in the United Football League.
At the centre of the park, Sparks boasted an impressive quartet of Matthew Hartmann, Bo Bae Park, Joo Young Lee (both South Korea) and Joaquin Canas (Spain).
While the Laotians will try their best to squeeze through to the quarter-finals, it will be a test of not only their physical strength but also their level of fitness.
Loyola Meralco Sparks’ Squad for 2014 RHB Singapore Cup
Goalkeeper: Ricardo Padilla Jr., Baba Sampana (Ghana)
Defenders: Samuel Bonney (Ghana), Alexandro Elnar, Armand Del Rosario, Peter Fadrigalan, Roxy Dorlas.
Midfielders: Matthew Hartmann, James Younghusband, Bo Bae Park (Korea), Simon Greatwich, Joaquin Canas (Spain), Paolo Bugas, Arnel Amita, Joo Young Lee (Korea), Angelou Jurao.
Forwards: Alfredo ‘Freddy’ Gonzalez, Philip Younghusband, Robert Canedo, Graham Edward Caygill.
SHB Champasak’s Squad for 2014 RHB Singapore Cup
Goalkeepers: Somsay Ounnalay, Nguyen Tien Anh (Vietnam).
Defenders: Bounthavee Phommasith, Ketsada Souksavanh, Oudomsith Singlatsomboun, Sonxay Simoulay, Vixay Khamxomphou, Xaybandith Sombatdouang.
Midfielders: Khonesavanh Thongchaleune, Sakda Luangsombath, Soulinthone Simmavong, Thatsadaphone Vorladed, Xam Sengmany, Michael Bernard Segun (Nigeria), Imbem Itubu (Congo).
Forwards: Sangvonne Phimmasen, Daniel Obo (Ghana), Elenildo de Jesus (Brazil)