It was rough. It was physical. It was nasty. And it was beautiful, too.
And like a lot of Pinoy football stories, it features Phil Younghusband finding the net and his team winning.
The Loyola Meralco Sparks hacked out a hard-earned 2-1 win against Kaya on Monday and catch the last train to the UFL League Cup semis, where they were drawn against Global.
First, the goals. Phil opened the scoring with a calmly-taken penalty after Younousse Yaogo fouled fouled Matt Hartmann in the box. Kaya equalized with a superb long-range effort from Diego Barrera before the halftime whistle.
Phil’s go-ahead goal was a beauty, a cracking low shot that Kaya keeper Nick O’Donnell got a mitt to but couldn’t keep out.
Jovin Bedic got a start for Kaya at target man and did well. He missed an attempt in the first half but unspooled two lovely long balls forward that Barrera and Louis Clark were unable to covert.
The rest of the match was far more interesting.
There was OJ Porteria and Simon Greatwich jousting in the first half and receiving cautions by Jimmy Liman. Then Greatwich gets a second yellow and his walking papers in the second after a challenge on Barrera. He misses the semifinal.
There were bumps and bruises for Masa Omura, Eddie Mallari, Anton Del Rosario and Rocky Plaza, who had to be stretchered off.
Sparks Mallari and Del Rosario were facing their old club, and it was apparent that friendships were set aside for an intense 90 minutes.
Aly Borromeo did well in containing Phil, and he nearly got on the scoresheet as well, heading wide late.
After the game some players needed to be separated after tempers flared. Kaya’s players and fans complained bitterly that Loyola was faking injuries to waste time as they nursed their lead.
One Kaya veteran told me that a member of the other camp was a “lowlife.”
After the whistle Del Rosario, with an icepack strapped on a knee, hobbled over to the Kaya technical area to embrace his former team mates and ease the tension.
“I still love ’em,” said the Azkal vet.
Sparks coach Simon McMenemy gave a postgame interview but was drowned out by the chants of “diver, diver” of the Kaya Ultras.
There was real, undeniable passion in the match, and the decent-sized crowd enjoyed every moment of it. I’m hoping for the same in the Global-Loyola semi.
In the first game Pachanga Diliman reached the quarters with an unconvincing 2-1 extra time win against a defensive-minded Manila All Japan. Behrouz Khosgavar’s magnificent first half volley was negated by a late strike by Yugo Kobayashi. Lee Jeong Woo settled it in the addendum with a header off a Hamid Hajimehdi corner.
Pachanga tried to play a possession-based game but had difficulty penetrating the dense MAJ defense.
PD was missing Jinggoy Valmayor (ankle sprain sustained in UP training), Paolo Salenga (Unigames duty with NU) and Andrew Santiago (injury). It showed on the pitch as they labored to score against a fiesty MAJ team.
Santiago was a big loss. The centerback is key to running Pachanga’s vaunted high defensive line/offside trap. When he is in the back line coach Yuki Matsuda can move up Park Yi Young into the midfield, where he can raise hell with Lee. Last night Park had to play centerback alongside Patxi Santos.
Let’s see if Santiago can be fit enough for the final four.
PD now faces Ceres on November four at 8pm. At five pm, Loyola tangles with Global. If I were the league I would do a switcheroo and make the Loyola-Global game the second match. But that’s just me.
The semis and the final of November 6 will be aired live on TV5 but I beg all Pinoy football fans to watch live. The atmosphere is getting better and better all the time.