This appears in the Tuesday, October 9, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
Tampines ends Loyola’s Singapore Cup run
by rick olivares pic by brosi gonzales
Jalan Besar Stadium
Sunday, October 7, 2012
There was no spirited comeback. No fantastic Phil Younghusband or Mark Hartmann goal to ignite the Jalan Besar stands that were once more predominantly Filipino.
The incredible run by the Loyola Meralco Sparks in the 2012 Singapore Cup ended the way it began – in stunning fashion. The United Football League side made its international debut when it dispatched Geylang United and Kanbawza in the earlier rounds to advance to the semifinals. In both legs, Loyola went down a goal early before embarking on their patented rallies.
But in the final four clash with the cream of Singaporean club football, the Sparks needed to overhaul a two-goal deficit spotted them by the Tampines Rovers. It was quite a task but eminently doable. In the second leg, Loyola failed to build on the promise of a superb attacking first half to bow out of the tournament with a 3-0 loss and by an aggregate score of 5-nil.
The Sparks did what they should have done in the first leg of the semifinals series with the defending S. League champions – mark the wingers and double team striker Aleksandar Duric on top.
This time around the secondary moved in concert with the forward line of their 1-4-1-4 formation. Loyola got their passing game going that helped them carve up those impressive wins against Geylang United and Kanbawza. The Sparks repeatedly pierced the back three of the Stags’ 3-4-3 formation with give and go’s but the final pass and the finish left much to be desired.
In the 17th minute, Phil Younghusband set up midfielder Jang Jowon but the Korean muffed his shot that was over the uprights. Eight minutes later, James and Phil Younghusband teamed up for a series of attacks that either misfired or Tampines goalkeeper Sasa Dreven saved.
The Stags played more defensively and conservatively, as they knew that Loyola would try to chase them around the pitch. Only when the opportunity for a counter presented itself did the Stags attack.
In the face of the early pressure from Loyola, Dreven’s defense was crucial in keeping Loyola off the board and there was concern that the home team was going to adjust. Adjust they did. Head coach Tay Peng Kee switched his trademark 3-4-3 formation to a more flexible 2-5-3 formation that bottled up the Sparks’ midfield.
Tensions rose after a foul on Phil Younghusband outside the Tampines box in the 70th minute. Loyola defender Chad Gould charged into Tampines counterpart Anaz Hadee that nearly sparked a free for all. Referee Mohd Yazeen Buhari carded both players.
Two minutes later, another near fight broke out this time in the Loyola side of the box when Stags forward Noh Alam Shah spat at Loyola midfielder Anto Gonzales then playfully slapped at his face. It took several minutes to placate a livid Gonzales who gave Shah the slit throat sign after Kee pulled him out for Jamil Ali.
With time not on the side of Loyola, the Sparks coaching staff sent a few of their defenders to support.
This is where Tampines pounced.
In the 77th minute, an errant pass by Loyola midfielder Simon Greatwich saw the Stags race forward. Duric raced in front the left and found himself one on one with defender Park Min Ho. The Singaporean striker turned then smashed home a dagger with his left boot.
The floodgates opened as Ali pounced on another errant pass and whipped a pass to Duric who deftly side stepped his defender to boot in his second goal of the game.
To add insult, Tampines scored their third goal of the match in stoppage time when Ali found space before setting up Imran Sahib for the coup de grace.
The Stags move on to the Singapore Cup Finals on the 28th of October where they will face Singapore Armed Forces who dispatched Gombak United by an aggregate score of 2-0.
Loyola will have the opportunity to bow out of the tournament on a high note when they play Gombak in the battle for third place also on the 28th of October at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Loyola Meralco Sparks: Ref Cuaresma, Alexandro Elnar, Chad Gould, Park Min Ho, Roxy Dorlas (Peter Fadrigalan 83'), Andres Gonzales, Simon Greatwich, Mark Hartmann, James Younghusband, Jang Jowon (Jake Morallo 79'), Philip Younghusband.
Tampines Rovers: Sasa Dreven, Anaz Hadee, Mustafic Fahrudin, Jufri Taha, Imran Sahib, Ahmad Latiff, Gligor Gligorov, Ismadi Mukhtar, Aleksandar Duric (Ahmed Fahmie 86'), Sead Hadzibulic (Sazali Salleh 60'), Noh Alam Shah (Jamil Ali 75')
Notes: When Alex Duric was subbed out in the 86th minute, the Singaporean striker was applauded by the Filipino supporters. Duric who has scored five goals in this tournament (while adding eight in the S. League) will be retiring at the end of the season. Attendance for the match was pegged at 1,248. There was a confrontation after the match between Loyola midfielder Anto Gonzales and Tampines Rovers forward Noh Alam Shah who admitted that he spat and slapped the Filipino. Said the Singaporean: “If the referee didn’t see it there’s nothing wrong.” A livid Gonzales had to be restrained even as Shah tried to shake his hand.