Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gutsy Loyola beats Geylang 2-1 to advance to Singapore Cup q’finals

Grateful Loyola Meralco Sparks congratulate Minho Park after a thrilling 2-1 win over Geylang United.

Gutsy Loyola beats Geylang 2-1 to advance to Singapore Cup q’finals
by rick olivares pics by brosi gonzales

May 18, 2012
KALLANG, SINGAPORE - Anto Gonzales dropped back to move into the right back position. The Geylang United Eagles began to mass once more on the attack. The Loyola Meralco Sparks, running on fumes and perilously close to exhaustion repelled the attack and sent the ball forward and out of bounds, giving the their defense another chance to take shape. Gonzales screamed as right back Alex Elnar to get back in the game.

Minutes earlier, Elnar was pushed out along the goal line, one of the many casualties the Sparks sustained from cramps. Elnar was crying with tears streaming down his cheeks. He was in excruciating pain. His lower body had been unable to move. After being attended to trainer Mike Yamamoto, Elnar, dragged himself back to center half to gamely rejoin the match now in its waning moments.

When referee Leow Thiam Hoe blew his whistle ending the match that took two hours and 20 minutes to play, the gallant Loyola team, exhausted and hurting beyond belief and facing adversity not only on the pitch but from at home in the Philippines as well, had beaten the home side, 2-1, at the Jalan Besar Stadium, home of the Football Association of Singapore, to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2012 Singapore Cup. The Sparks were the first foreign side to beat a Singaporean team in the opening week.

Home United dispatched Duli Pengiran Muda Mahkota Football Club of Brunei, 1-0. DPMM is currently playing in the Singaporean S. League as a guest team where they are on top of the standings with a 9-2-1 record that is good for 29 points.

Tampines Rovers had to eke out a late goal from Aleksandar Duric to advance, 4-3, over previously underachieving Phnom Penh Crown of Cambodia. Japan’s Albirex Niigata had yet to play Laotian side Yotha and Myanmar’s Kanbawza is slated to Singaporean team Woodlands Wellington tonight.

It took the Sparks a few minutes before they established control of the match as their 4-2-3-1 formation somewhat took the starch out of the Eagles. However, in the 42nd minute, the home team struck first when a defensive howler saw Geylang midfielder Michael King drawing first blood. Loyola defender Minho Park and goalkeeper collided and the ball found its way to King, an ex-Arsenal youth player, whose quality was on display for all to see.

Inside the locker room, the Sparks remained positive as they made adjustments to their defense. Come the second half, their holding midfielders of Mark Hartmann and Gonzales, not only solidified their offense but also helped in the build-up of the Sparks’ more deliberate attack.

Loyola showed more promise in the attack with one-two-three combination passes that led to attempts. And in the 64th minute, the Sparks equalized when a rebound of a James Younghusband volley found its way to Hartmann who was waiting just outside the box. Hartmann, blasted a shot that took a wicked hop to the first stick that evaded a diving Yazid Yasin, a former Singaporean national goalkeeper.

The humidity and hard artificial turf eventually took its toll on the Philippine team as one-by-one, they succumbed to cramps. Workhorses like midfielder Jake Morallo and defender Roxy Dorlas, who pay great attention to fitness and conditioning, had gone out early forcing the Loyola coaching staff to substitute players much earlier than they wanted.

Both clubs held fast at goal with Yasin and Filipino counterpart, Ref Cuaresma, making great saves. With the match in stoppage time, Geylang’s late sub, Amy Recha, volleyed from the left side that Cuaresma managed to tap out. That save preserved a 1-1 scoreline to send the match into extra time.

In the fifth minute of the 30 minute added time, Loyola struck first when Minho Park also volleyed from outside that struck the back of Geylang defender Ishak Zainol before finding the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.

By the second half of extra time, the Sparks looked spent and simply held back with Davide Cortina, Phil Younghusband and Mark Hartmann making the occasional sortie that chewed more time off the game clock. The Eagles made a few last ditch efforts behind Zainol, who had another shot saved by Cuaresma, and King whose free kicks found their way inside the Loyola box only to be turned back by the defense.

Loyola held on. If only barely. When Hoe blew the final whistle of the match, the Sparks, battered and injured, were moving on. Assistant head coach Vincent Santos said, “We were concerned whether it was the weather or if we hydrated enough. Although we did give up a goal it was because of miscommunication. We had our chances in the second half. Luckily, we scored .”

Added a tired Anto Gonzales, “We hung in there.”

It was Phil Younghusband who best described the adversity that Loyola faced: “It’s a great win for Philippine football. We worked so hard. Even with all the obstacles in front of us -- we had two players who right before the game they said couldn’t play, we had people getting cramps, Park and Byeong-Yeol Jeong just got back from a bout with dengue fever, and we used our three substitutes. The hard work from all the players and that’s what got us through. We showed the Filipino spirit.”

The obstacles Younghusband referred to was the probable unavailability of Davide Cortina and Matthew Hartmann.

Fifteen minutes before the team arrived at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the team learned that the Deutscher Fussball-Bund, the governing body of German football, had come through with the certification that Cortina had complied with his international transfer requirements. Cortina, who is from Italy and who played in Germany, had requested his paperwork as soon as Loyola found out that they were playing in Singapore but authorities back home did not act on the paperwork.

The other obstacle involved the controversial Matthew Hartmann who has been suspended from club and banned from the national team back home. The older brother of Mark, was initially penciled in by Loyola as a game reserve and had trained with the club since their arrival in the Lion City. However, Adrian Chan, Assistant Director for Competitions for the Football Association of Singapore, received an anonymous text message about Hartmann’s case. Chan discussed the matter with Sparks officials and it was decided to strike off Hartmann of the reserves list.

Summed up Loyola president, “It was a great win. We defied the odds to make a case for our club and Philippine football. It helps build the credibility of our league back home. This is for all our UFL clubs back home who are toiling to show that we have a league.”

Loyola will return to Singapore in the first week of July to play the winner of the Woodlands Wellington-Kanbawza match in a two-legged series.

1 comment:

  1. inefficient pa rin ng PFF my gulay! There should be no politics in this sport.