Loyola returns to Singapore for q’finals matches with Kanbawza
by rick olivares
The Loyola Meralco Sparks hope to salvage a silverware-less season when they face Myanmar side Kanbawza in a two-legged quarterfinals series in the 2012 Singapore Cup. Loyola placed third in the UFL after only taking two points out of a possible nine in their last three matches.
This time the Sparks return to Singapore reinvigorated with key pickups PJ Fadrigalan (signed from Navy) and Koreans Park Kwangseek and Jang Jowon.
Fadrigalan is tabbed to shore up the team’s suspect defense. Loyola scored the most goals in the UFL during the cup and league competition (48 and 64 respectively) but they also surrendered 27 goals in the last tournament.
The Football Association of Singapore allowed the two additions because the UFL season just ended with the contracts of many players expiring.
The Sparks advanced to the quarterfinals following an intense 2-1 over Geylang United. Former Arsenal youth player Michael King got Geylang on the board with a 43rd minute strike. But the Sparks responded in the second half with spectacular goals from Mark Hartmann and Min Ho Park.
The quarterfinals affair with Kanbawza will be a two-legged series on July 5 and 8 at the Jalan Besar Stadium. Kanbawza is coached by former Singaporean coach PJ Sivaji.
Kanbawza was the Myanmar Premier League champion in 2007 and this season, they are second behind leader Yadanarbon on goal difference with nine matches to play.
Against Woodlands Wellington who they dispatched, 2-1, Kanbawza played a basic 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield.
Their goalkeeper Kyaw Zin Htet and two central defenders are steady. Their Ghanaian centerback Samuel Hanson steadies the defense and has a good partner in Khin Maung Lwin. The right back Win Min Htut is a bit heavy and slow. And Lwin has to cover for him when he is beaten for pace. Htut has good technique is good and when he goes on his overlap, his crosses are accurate however his suspect on pace. The left back Aung Han Win does a lot of overlapping. He has excellent fitness.
They also press too much to the left or right, depending on which side the opponent is attacking and if Loyola opts to switch play, they can exploit the space on the other side.
They play a diamond midfield formation where they pass and run a lot. They have a superb short game with a lot of one touch passing. Brazilian midfielder Tercio Nunes who scored against Woodlands plays a holding midfield position yet has a lot of power in his boot.
Kanbawza has a big and strong striker in Nigerian Charles Ikechukwu Obi who is on loan from Yangon United FC. Obi can hold up the ball well and has an excellent work rate. If he is tackled hard, he just gets up and moves on and doesn’t whine or complain. His strike partner Min Oo Soe is just as skillful but less strong.
Sivaji has a generally a hard working team that does a lot of running off the ball with a lot of short passing but quick interchanging of play. They are happy to take shots from outside the box. As long as they have a sniff at goal, they would take a shot. Fitness a little suspect and they tend to lose concentration a little. It is their national players – goalkeeper Htet, defender Lwin (captain for the national side), and striker Soe – and their foreign reinforcements in Nunes and Obi who carry this squad. Their large contingent of supporters provides as massive does of confidence.