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.

Friday, February 22, 2013

UFL Thursday: Finally, Loyola defeats Air Force

Finally, Loyola defeats Air Force
by rick olivares

Loyola took its customary lumps and cards against nemesis Air Force but this time, they took home a massive 4-0 win to remain unbeaten in three matches.

Eight of Air Force’s starters were new to the Sparks but after a minute, they way the former style of play sure didn’t look any different.

There were the Stallion refugees Antonio Albor, Vince Braga, Ansing Gustilo, and Romeo Martinez Jr.; former Pachanga and Pasargad top keeper Kenneth Dolloso; and Mark Anthony Fernandez (who is actually returning for Air Force after a loan to PSG).

This wasn’t the Loyola squad that PAF so loved dispatching and frustrating in seasons past. For starters, there’s Freddy Gonzalez atop the Sparks’ formation. There’s Rodrigue Nembot at the back replacing Lawrence Ikegwuruka who is now with Green Archers United. As for the rest of the Sparks, there’s a determination to not only end this streak of futility against Air Force that began with the memorable UFL Cup Finals of 2011. That’s three matches of not getting the W. And if Air Force had its way, a win once more to right their ship, er, plane.

In the first match at Emperador Stadium played under rainy conditions, Loyola scored in their very first offensive with only seconds gone by in the match when Matthew Hartmann’s nifty throughball found his brother Mark cutting past a surprised Air Force back four. Mark booted the ball in for the fastest goal in this current UFL season (or any other in the past several seasons that I can remember).

Incredibly, they didn’t come close again. At least not for another 15 or so minutes as PAF turned the match around with strong physical play. As expected, it  became all about reckless tackles, elbows, and even a punch to the face by Vince Braga on Loyola defender Rodrigue Nembot that even had Air Force striker Ian Araneta chiding the new recruit.

Air Force stepped up the pressure and incredibly it looked as Loyola was going to wilt once again. It didn’t looked good at all when central back Chad Gould was sent off for consecutive yellow cards that reduced Loyola to 10 men. Incredibly, just as their brother Ateneo Men’s Football Team did several hours earlier where they outplayed UP even when down to 10 players, so did Loyola.

The Sparks silenced the loud Air Force bench when Phil Younghusband uncorked a blaster from just a foot inside the box in the 52nd minute on a deadrun following a series of one touch passing.

Two minutes later, off another break, Mark Hartmann sent a cross from deep right that Gonzalez booted in past his former Pachanga teammate, Dolloso. Gonzalez had an opportunity to double Loyola’s lead in the early minutes when the nifty passing gave him space up front. With two strides ahead of his closest pursuer, Gonzalez elected to pass to a cutting Phil Younghusband never mind if Dolloso committed to his left and he had all day to take the shot to the right. Younghusband flubbed the shot as he slipped. Younghusband’s goal certainly eased the pressure and opened the floodgates as they asserted control.

In stoppage time, late sub Alex Elnar sent a cross that found Mark Hartmann for a volley that closed out the 4-0 rout.

The win saw Loyola join Global and Stallion as the last undefeated squads in the UFL but vault them to the top of the standings because of goal differential. Loyola has scored eight goals and conceded only one in three matches. Global has seven goals but has also allowed two goals back. Stallion like Global sports the same goal difference. 

Air Force on the other hand fell to 0-2 and have quite shockingly failed to find the back of the net. "New team," offered PAF head coach Sgt. Edzel Bracamonte. "We'll get there."

“It’s nice to get this win. Really,” said Sparks head coach Vincent Santos who was upset with the officiating that saw a number of his players cautioned. “The officials need to protect the players. But aside from that, it’s a good win but we cannot really celebrate anything until the season is done. If this win helps us to the championship then we’ll really celebrate this. But for now, it’s just another game we have to win. Just like everybody else.”

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