LOYOLA Meralco continued to thrive with an undermanned lineup as it rolled past Phillipine Army, 3-1, to stay at the top of the top United Football League standings on Tuesday night at the Emperador Stadium.
Without a handful of key players, the Sparks still had enough quality to hike their point total to 26 points as Simon Greatwich, Lee Joo Young, and the returning James Younghusband emerged the goalscorers for the Sparks, who kept the Korean-powered Troopers in fifth spot.
Showing why he was good enough to be called up anew in the national team that will play in two friendlies next month, Greatwich opened the scoring 37 minutes into the game, before Lee doubled the lead five minutes later.
The Sparks then pounced on a Troopers side that went down to 10 men in the last 20 minutes of the match when Ronel Gener picked up two yellow cards in a span of eight minutes.
After incurring his first yellow in the 61st minute for unnecessary contact with Lee, Gener was shown a second infraction in the 69th when he for the same violation against the same Korean.
That translated to a penalty that was taken by Younghusband, whose attempt was rejected by goalkeeper Ed Sacapaño, before scoring off the rebound in the 71st.
The Azkals star’s goal, which came only five minutes after he came in for Armand del Rosario, gave the Sparks a commanding lead, which appeared to make them relax in a development that Sparks coach Vince Santos rued.
“Instead of killing off the game, we took our foot off the pedal. That’s not how champion teams act,” said Santos, whose team is gunning for a tough UFL double title this season after ruling the Cup late last year.
The Troopers took advantage of the Sparks’ late complacency as Roel Gener, Ronel’s brother, pulled a goal back with a header a minute before stoppage time.