The Loyola Meralco Sparks escaped with a 3-1 triumph over Kanbawza FC in a heated Thursday night encounter in the first leg of the quarterfinals of the 2012 Singapore Cup at the Jalan Besar Stadium in the island state.
Despite the scoreline, the Sparks actually went through a tough task in clinching the victory, enduring the physical play of the Myanmar side that resulted in two ejections and the frustrated Burmese fans that caused a slight delay in the match.
The Sparks started the game firing early, as Phil Younghusband caught a cross and blasted a goal in the 14th minute to give Loyola the early lead.
Things got cautious at the end of the first half after a red card was slapped to Kanbawza’s Hia Aye Htwe due to a headbutt collision with James Younghusband. Loyola then took advantage of the undermanned Myanmar side, down to 10 men, as Phil Younghusband found himself open for a shot that went wide off the post.
Tempers flared at the start of the second half from the Myanmar crowd, as some frustrated fans threw objects such as cups onto the pitch, which almost led to the suspension of the match.
But Loyola remained poised after the incident, continuing their onslaught over Kanbawza after Mark Hartmann slotted a goal in the 66th minute to give the Sparks a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Kanbawza dug themselves into a deeper hole, forced to play with just nine men after Kyaw Zayar Win got thrown out of the match due to his second yellow card. But they immediately recovered, as Myanmar national football star striker Soe Min Oo sank a goal in the 75th minute.
Loyola prevented any last-minute comebacks from Kanbawza after James Younghusband fired another goal in injury time to seal the victory.
The triumph does not assure the Sparks a semifinals stint yet, as they need to win on aggregate by scoring more total goals in the two legs of the match. The second leg will be played on Sunday, also at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.
The Singapore Cup is an annual invitational tournament featuring S.League teams and foreign squads. Loyola is the first and only Philippine club in the competition.