The wolf, the pack, and the attempt for another comeback.
Loyola Meralco Sparks vs. Tampines Rovers
by rick olivares
In the pre-game team meeting for the first leg of Loyola’s semifinals series with Tampines Rovers, club president Randy Roxas quoted that timeless adage from the book The Law of the Jungle about how “the strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf.” It was meant to tell the team that the while they are talented individually, they could win only as a team.”
During lunch immediately after that meeting, I went around and asked the players for a few quotes that I could send back to my fellow journalists in Manila. Goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma, who has made “ve-ry nice” a catch phrase in the team, was lost for a moment before he quoted Roxas’ “the strength of the wolf…” to the hilarity of some.
A table across, defender Alex Elnar also quoted from The Law of the Jungle. So did Simon Greatwich.
After that 2-nil opening match loss to the Stags where the lack of cohesion on the pitch showed, that truism is never more relevant.
Here are the lads and their thoughts about today’s huge match.
I think we paid a lot of attention to Aleksandar Duric. We didn’t close down the source of those long balls and diagonal balls. We were slow to pressure and they were able to play their game.
We were competitive in the first 10 minutes as we threatened in our counters but we focused on Mr. Duric that we forgot their players on their wing.
The first goal was my lapse. I tried my best to keep Tampines from scoring more goals. They really are a good football team.
We lost 2-nil but we know what we did wrong. We will make our adjustments but I remain positive about the second game.
These are early days for us. Honestly, we thought they were going to completely destroy us. But we held. I am not massively disappointed because it is something we can build on. This was our first full 90 minutes together in a real match and not just a friendly.
Before that first goal, we lurked dangerously. The first goal shook us. It felt like we kept battling for possession and playing catch up. But for us, it was staying in the game. With a score of 2-0 there is still a possibility. Anything more than that then it’s all over. Going into the next game, we have to get a goal early on.
The experience in a football environment like Singapore is priceless. The facilities, the quality of football, and the fans – it’s all wonderful. Jalan Besar has been like a home field for us. Winning on that pitch gives us that feeling.
The task is quite obvious – offensively, it’s to score as quickly as possible in order to draw level. Defensively, it is to stop the supply of long balls or passes to Aleksandar Duric up front and to stop the runs from the flanks. The onus is on Loyola to make the adjustments as they return to their “home field” of Jalan Besar.
Thus far, the Sparks have beaten Singapore side Geylang United and Burmese eleven Kanbawza. Can Loyola, which has a history of stories comebacks, turn the trick one more time?
We’ll find out in a few hours’ time.