Loyola will take the fight to Kanbawza
by rick olivares
Even with one foot inside the semifinals door, the Loyola Meralco Sparks are not taking anything for granted. After defeating highly touted Kanbawza, 3-1, last Thursday, July 5, the Sparks are getting ready for the fight of their lives when they play the second match of the two-leg series in quarterfinals action of the 2012 RHB Singapore Cup.
Kanbawza head coach PN Sivaji admitted that the loss put them in a bind but the task of overhauling the two-goal difference is not impossible. “Credit Loyola for their victory. They outplayed us. But it is not over. We will make our adjustments. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
The Myanmar side, currently running second in their nation’s Premier League, will be without three key players. Starting goalkeeper Kyaw Zin Htet went out in the 15th minute with a shoulder injury. Midfielder Hla Aye Htwe was issued a red card by referee Leow Thiam Hoe for striking Sparks midfielder James Younghusband in the face and reserve midfielder Kyaw Zayar Win was booked for consecutive cards following a late tackle on Loyola’s Park Min Ho and dissent.
Loyola will also be missing two starters in the second match as midfielder Davide Cortina will have to sit it out on account of two yellow cards. Right back Alex Elnar and reserve defender PJ Fadrigalan are likewise unavailable as they had to fly back to Manila for work.
Vincent Santos, assistant coach for Loyola said that Jake Morallo and Jayson Cutamora and vice captain Pat Ozaeta will be tapped to plug the holes aside from playing key roles in their system of play. “We are approaching this game as if we are down to Kanbawza. We are missing just as many players and like them, we will be making adjustments.”
Sparks midfielder Anto Gonzales opined that it is important for Loyola to step up the pressure on Kanbawza. “We saw how they get rattled when they are not able to execute. If we are able to score first and early that will be a huge advantage for us. A two-goal lead is not safe. If they score early they will be back in the game.”
The match is expected to draw even more fans from both sides for the Sunday do-or-die match where the winner on aggregate score will advance to the semifinal round to play Tampines Rovers. Tampines defeated their Japanese foes, 4-1, to book the seat.
It is reported that officials from the Football Association of Singapore will camp out at the Sparks’ hotel the night before the game to protect the Philippine team from Kanbawza’s rowdy fans. In the Myanmar team’s previous match against Singapore side Woodlands Wellington, overzealous Myanmar fans raided the Woodlands team’s hotel causing players to lose sleep and concentration.