RHB Singapore Cup: Road to 3rd/4th Placing
It may be their first time here, but that has not stopped them from reaching for the sky.
With former Chelsea Reserves players James and Philip Younghusband, as well as the Hartmann brothers, all four of whom are established Philippines internationals; Loyola Meralco Sparks surprised many in this year’s edition of the RHB Singapore Cup with their performances on the pitch.
Playing attacking football with the emphasis on keeping possession of the ball, they defeated Geylang United 2-1 in extra time in the first round, with a goal from Korean import Park Min Ho securing the win for them.
They faced fellow invitee Kanbawza FC (KBZ) of Myanmar in the Quarter-Finals, where proceedings were much harder. Despite holding a commanding 3-1 lead from a fiery clash in the first leg, they almost lost to KBZ in the second leg, who dominated the match from start to end. But Loyola eventually managed to pull off a 2-2 draw in that match to knock them out on 5-3 aggregate.
Through the luck of the draw, they met giants Tampines Rovers, and were knocked out 5-0 on aggregate, failing to show an account for themselves although the score might have flattered the Stags.
However, with Philippines ready to announce their footballing rise in the region, a bronze medal will do well to help boost their standings. Against Gombak United, they may just have a chance to do so.
Not that the Bulls are pushovers themselves.
While they may have failed in their bid to enter their first Singapore Cup Final, no one expected them to make it this far into the competition with such a young squad.
Youngsters such as Nurullah Hussein, Fairoz Hassan and Samuel Benjamin were an integral part of Gombak United’s cup run, in tandem with the experience of Ismail Yunos, Captain Obadin Aikena and Mustaqim Manzur.
They dumped Harimau Muda B out of the cup with a 3-0 win in the first round, before achieving the impossible by triumphing over Hougang United 3-2 on aggregate in the two-legged Quarter Finals, despite trailing 2-1 from the first leg.
However in the Semi-Finals, they lost 1-0 in both legs, which was a tad unlucky considering that both SAFFC goals came via the penalty spot.
What will stand them in good stead against Loyola Meralco Sparks, is their ability to find goals from every department. A total of 5 different goal-scorers mean that it is imperative for Loyola to keep an eye on everyone, which could make it tough for them.
Expect end-to-end action, as both clubs gun for the bronze medal!