LOYOLA Meralco lived up to being a spoiler anew as it held Stallion-Sta. Lucia to a 1-1 draw to derail its victim’s coronation in the United Football League on a rainy Tuesday night at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig.
After leaving a huge dent on Global’s bid for a second successive title with a win over the defending champion last week, the Sparks frustrated the Stallions this time as they battled from an early deficit, thanks to an equalizing goal from James Younghusband and a superb showing from goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma.
Despite another failed title bid, the Sparks finished the season on a positive note, with 38 points after putting up an 11-5-2 win-draw-loss record.
“Everybody thought this was a non-bearing game, but for us it’s showing pride against the two tough teams in the UFL,” Cuaresma said. “We’re looking forward to next season.”
The result left Stallion, the reigning UFL Cup champion, with 46 points to end the season, leaving the title race to be determined by second-running Global’s last two games of the season.
Global, with 40 points to show, can match Stallion’s total with a sweep of its last two games – against Kaya and Army – in which case the title race will boil down to goal difference.
The Stallions appeared poised for an early celebration of a double-championship after Lee Joo Young drew first blood 17 minutes into the game.
The game, though, was suspended for 30 minutes, starting in the 37th, due to heavy rain.
As play resumed, the Sparks, despite missing Mark Hartmann to national team duty, refused to bow down as Younghusband snuck in a header from the left side just before the halftime whistle.
Rufo Sanchez conjured numerous second-half attempts that Cuaresma always found a way to deny.
“I was just lucky. They had great attempts and I was just on the right spot at the right time,” said Cuaresma, a member of the national pool.
“They had one chance to score and they made it. We tried our best, but maybe we were anxious and nervous, so the ball didn’t go inside,” Stallions skipper Joaco Cañas said.
“Our destiny depends on Kaya so let’s wait,” the Spanish center-back added.