Sparks wins 3-1 in their Singapore Cup QF first leg (photo from interaksyon.com)
Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore – After a disappointing 3rd place finish in the United Football League (UFL), the Loyola Meralco Sparks somehow vented their frustrations to Myanmar‘s Kanbawza FC and beat them 3-1, in the first leg of their quarterfinal pairing of the 2012 Singapore Cup. The Sparks survived a very physical match against a tough Myanmar side who were reduced to nine players by the end of 90 minutes after Hia Aye Htwe and Kyaw Zayar Win earned cards from vicious fouls.
Philippine Azkal regular Phil Younghusband opened the scoring for the Loyola 11 by scoring from a great cross by South Korean Jeong Byeong-yeol in the 15th minute. Kanbawza FC then suffered a major blow early in the game when starting goalkeeper Kyaw Zin Htet have to be substituted by Yawai Zin after getting injured trying to stop the Sparks first score.
Kanbawza FC were hard-pressed to equalize and they were the more aggressive side in the first half. In the 33rd minute striker Soe Min Oo had a good attempt at the goal but he was called offside. In the 41st minute, Kyaw Zayar Win got his first yellow card after being booked for diving inside the penalty area. With calls not going their way, the Myanmar side grew very frustrated and it led to a red card to Hia Aye Htwe who got tangled with James Younghusband just before the halftime whistle.
Despite playing with just ten men, it was the Myanmar 11 who first had a serious attempt in the final half as Soe Min Oo had another attempt but was cleared by Andres Gonzales just a few minutes at the start of the new half. Matthew Hartmann, however, doubled the lead of Meralco in the 66th minute by finishing an elegant cross from the left by Phil Younghusband. Three minutes later, Kanbawza FC were down to 9 men after Kyaw Zayar Win earned another yellow card after a foul on Park Min-ho. Kanbawza though refused to give up without a fight as they scored in the 75th minute when national team striker Soe Min Oo connected with Brazilian Tercio Machado.
The Younghusbands though, combined to give an insurance goal for the Philippine side in injury time. James Younghusband scored from an impressive one-two with brother Phil giving the Loyola Meralco Sparks a formidable lead going to their second leg match on Sunday.