We play and watch football for the joy it brings into our lives.
And yet for some, the Beautiful Game is the cruelest of pursuits. It sure felt that way on Saturday night if you had the misfortune of being a Loyola fan.
The Sparks looked to be in cruise control, leading Kaya 2-1 at Rizal Memorial on a pair of fine strikes by Bradley Grayson. The second was off a header pass from Anton Del Rosario that was nodded home. There was less than ten minutes to go.
Del Rosario seemed to turn back the clock on Saturday night against his old club. Playing as a right back, he was an attack dog on the flank, with repeated forays into enemy territory as an overlapping wingback.
His assist on Grayson’s second score should have capped a superb evening. But then it all went wrong.
Anton made a back pass intended for Sparks centerback Adam Mitter. But he hooked it, and an eagle-eyed Louis Clark pounced on the ball and within seconds had beaten Loyola netminder Tommy Trigo for 2-2.
Then it got unspeakably, hideously, worse for Trigo and the Sparks.
With mere minutes to go Christian Ayew of Kaya lofted a high, soft, innocuous-looking ball into Trigo’s six-yard box. It was a looping cross more than anything, from maybe 35 yards out.
Somehow, some way, it slithered through Trigo’s palms and into the goal for 3-2.
The final whistle blew and Trigo dropped like an anchor to the turf, inconsolable.
Like Del Rosario, Trigo had also performed exceedingly well, with at least three top-drawer blanks to bail out the Sparks from danger. But it was the last save that he didn’t make that would haunt him.
Tommy and Anton are terrific guys. Anton has been a big part of the Azkals story since long before Hanoi in 2010. Trigo’s own tale is remarkable: he came to the Philippines to be a school teacher in PAREF-Southridge school, was brought to Team Socceroo to play goalie, then bought by Loyola. Last year he got his first Azkal cap against Cambodia.
They are both class acts, and neither of them deserved the gut-wrenching trauma of Saturday. But that’s the roller-coaster of sport writ large.
Both will bounce back. They have too much ability and character not too.
I’ve seen hundreds of UFL games dating back to 2011. I’ve never felt they way I did after this game. I was a neutral in this match, I just wanted a good match-up. And it was a very exciting, open contest, but the mind-numbing finish filled me with sadness for the Sparks, especially Tommy and Anton.
I was of course happy for Kaya, as they rebounded from last Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to GAU, but the joy for them was overshadowed by sympathy for Loyola.
Meralco has now lost two big games after being drubbed by league-leaders Ceres last weekend.
We play and watch football for the joy it brings into our lives. We must live with the anguish that also accompanies it. Loyola will try to make sense of the hurt before their next game.
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Green Archers held on to beat a very game Manila Jeepney in the first match 3-2. The beep-beeps came from 2-0 down to level 2-2 thanks to a quality goal from the impish Nano Amita. He faked one way and then the other before driving past Paolo Pascual. It’s a candidate for my top ten Pinoy goals of the year.
But Amita’s FEU team mate Jhan Jhan Melliza had the last laugh, storming down the right wing, shrugging off a defender, then offloading to Robert Lopez Mendy for the finish and the winner.
Both teams were on the rise after Archers topped Kaya and Jeepney upset Stallion midweek. But it’s Dolfo Alicante’s Archers who keep their place in the pecking order with a second straight win.