[Photo taken by Michelle Cortes]
Loyola Meralco Sparks have made the semifinals of the Singapore Cup after beating Kanbawza FC of Myanmar. They won the first leg outright, beating the Burmese side 3-1, before a 2-2 draw Sunday night.
James Younghusband and Jake Morallo both scored to give Loyola a 2-0 lead on the night and a comfortable 5-1 aggregate lead but in the second half the Burmese side tried to launch a comeback scoring twice, but they fell short as Loyola make the semifinals in a Philippine club’s first ever appearance in the Singapore Cup.
It wasn’t all easy for the Sparks though as knowing they needed to come back from a 3-1 loss Kanbawza started strongly.
With the game still not televised, GMA learned from a report from Goal.com that Kanbawza had the best o the early chances.
The Burmese team’s scorer from the first leg, Soe Min Oo, almost got his side off to the best start as he got to a long ball first and clipped the ball over the onrushing Ref Cuaresma in goal.
The Burmese side didn’t have the best of luck though as he watched as the ball just went wide of the post before Charles Obi’s cross cum shot moments later was inches too high and just went over the bar.
Loyola then took the best of their chances as Park Minho played a wonderful long ball to James Younghusband in the 24th minute. The Loyola captain rounded the keeper and gave Loyola a commanding 4-1 lead on the night with his second goal of the competition.
Jake Morallo then gave the travelling Filipinos something else to cheer about in the 37th minute as Kyaw Zin Htet spilled the ball to the midfielder who tapped in to give Loyola a 2-0 lead and put the Sparks 5-1 up on aggregate.
After the break Kanbawza came back into the game as Samuel Henson’s strike from 25 yards gave them a glimmer of hope. The long range effort gave the Burmese side some urgency and they pushed forward in search of more goals.
Nigerian striker Charles Obi headed against the post soon after, with the crowd urging them on, and then struck the woodwork again from a 30 yard effort later in the half.
The Burmese fans became louder, cheering on their side to make an unlikely comeback, and it proved a little too difficult as Loyola soaked up the pressure and wound down the clock.
There was just enough time for substitute Khaing Zaw Tun to grab an equalizer and bring the scores level on the night, at 2-2, but the 5-3 aggregate scoreline gave Loyola a comfortable victory overall and sent them through to the semifinals.
Into the last four Loyola will be starting to think about winning the trophy but their next game may well be the hardest of the competition. They will face S-League champions Tampines Rovers who scored a 4-1 aggregate win over Albirex Niigata Singapore, the reserves of J-League side Albirex Niigata.
With a 2-1 victory in the first leg and a 2-0 win in the second, Tampines Rovers will be the toughest challenge o the Singapore Cup so far and the tie will go a long way to showing how far Philippine football has improved.
Loyola have already done well to reach the Semi Finals, defeating former Singapore Cup champions Geylang United and Burmese side Kanbawza, who are currently second in their domestic league on goal difference.
Attention will now turn to the Semis which will see two of the top clubs in the Philippines and Singapore battle it out to reach the final. Whoever wins between the two may well also be the favorites to win the Singapore Cup itself with the other semifinal seeing S-League’s mid-table Gombak United and the winner of the last Quarter Final matchup between the Singapore Armed Forces and Home United.
Despite being third in the S-League, just two points off the lead, Home United will have to overturn a 2-1 deficit in the Second Leg against the 7th placed Singapore Armed Forces.
Either way Loyola are now the only foreign team left in the competition and will compete against the best of Singapore in the Semi Finals. So keep a look out for the announcement of when the semisinal will be played as the Sparks represent the Philippines in the last four of the Singapore Cup.