Yesterday, the Loyola Meralco Sparks faced the League’s leader, Global FC, in a thrilling match that ended in a scoreless draw.
The match began with an immediate attack by Global. Omid Nazari tried a cross but he could not penetrate Meralco’s tight defense. After a failed attempt from a corner kick by Ivan Petrovic, Tahj Minniecon started a counter attack. However, his graceful drive was intercepted by the opposition’s defenders. Several moments after, one of Loyola’s best chances to score was carved. Phil Younghusband shipped a long one to Minniecon who defeated two defenders, but his strike sailed above the bar.
It seems like the crossbar was Global’s 12th man during the early game. After Minniecon’s attempt earlier, it was Anton del Rosario who headed the ball to the bar after a Phil Younghusband lob. Two minutes after, Phil managed to sneak another pass to Minniecon but the striker hit the bar once again.
Motivated by the early chances, the Sparks entered the second half with added aggressiveness. However, it was Petrovic who almost broke the deadlock with a corner. Fortunately, a foul was called on one of Global’s defender and the goal was ruled out.
The League leaders had several chances to take the lead in the second half. But the back line, led by Joaquin Canas, rejected every corner and freekick attempt. Not even the speed of Misagh Bahadoran and Hikarui Minegashi could get past Loyola’s impenetrable defense.
However, as the dying moments drew closer, another heart-pounding chance was created. Nazari drove past Loyola’s defense and tricked Hasegawa leaving the net open. Luckily, Nazari sent it to the side of the net.
The last moments of stoppage time was a test of Hasegawa’s toughness and Minniecon’s skills. Minniecon caught a slight moment to score but Patrick Deyto read the forward’s plan. Valmayor then received a timely pass from Minniecon but the flag was up for the young striker.
On the other hand, Petrovic forced a long one from beyond the box which Hasegawa quickly saved. Paolo Selanga tried his luck but the Brazillian goalie was on fire and handed Salenga a beautiful rejection.
Despite not clinching the three points, head coach, Simon McMenemy expressed his delight with the team’s performance yesterday.
“When the national team go away and they come back after a 28-hour flight and we’ve been training with 12 players for the last week, I’m very proud of that performance. To go out and match them and fight, and still carry a threat — we had a couple of chances in the second half, maybe a few half chances. It was not as good as the first, but I’m pleased with a result like that,” said McMenemy.
“In terms of listening to what we’ve worked on and how we play, I’m very happy that the boys were able to put the plan in action and it worked very well. Had we put one away in the first half we could come away with a one-nil win. So, it’s close. It’s good. I’m quite happy,” added McMenemy.
With another point in the table, the Sparks will head on to their next game on Sunday against JP Voltes FC at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, 4:00pm.