LOYOLA Meralco pounced on a Pachanga-PLDT Home Fibr side that fell a man down early to score a 4-1 victory on Tuesday night in the United Football League at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
With more room to operate after Pachanga goalkeeper Steve Yambou was ejected with still over 10 minutes left in the first half, the Sparks erased an early deficit, before pulling away in the second half to notch the nonetheless hard-earned victory.
Freddy Gonzalez left his imprint all-game long as he registered two assists and a goal, James Younghusband announced his return from injury with the go-ahead goal, while brother Phil and Lee Joo Young were on target as well for the league-leading Sparks, who jacked up their point total to 32.
Loyola, once again four points ahead of Global FC, also left Pachanga stuck in seventh spot with 11 points.
“I think we did enough to get the goal back,” Sparks coach Vince Santos said. “It’s a pity they had to have a sending off, but I haven’t reviewed the tape.”
However, for the third straight time since the UFL Cup finale last year, Pachanga made it an uphill climb for the Sparks anew as Reza Amirkhizan put the former Division 2 champions on the board with a strike 17 minutes into the match.
But things immediately went south for Pachanga in the 35th minute when Yambou picked up his second yellow card after a collision with James Younghusband questionable call that awarded Phil a penalty, which he converted to equalize the count.
It was not just Yambou who was ordered to leave as Pachanga owner John Gutierrez was also sent off for fuming at the referees over the call, his voice heard even from the other side of the pitch.
The commotion was so long that the referees were forced to add seven minutes of first-half stoppage time.
James Younghusband, coming off a layoff due to a quadriceps injury, gave the Sparks the lead for good with strike off a counterattack in the 61st minute, before Lee padded the cushion with his own conversion nine minutes later.
After making both goals happen, Gonzalez, who played with a bum stomach, was at the firing end in the 84th when he struck against his former club.
“Very frustrating kasi maganda yung umpisa namin,” Pachanga coach Noel Marcaida said. “Kung nag-stick lang yung bagay-bagay sa kung ano yung napag-planuhan, kaya naming kunin yung game.”
Marcaida also rued the call the forced the squad to play with 10 men, who still looked threatening at times.
“How I saw it, walang intention yung ‘keeper na go straight to (Younghusband). Makikita mo yung extension ng isang kamay niya sa bola talaga eh.”
While admitting some fault on the officiating, Santos hopes Gutierrez’s outburst doesn’t happen again.
“I think it’s common knowledge that there are a lot of complaints about the officiating,” Santos said. “But if you compound it with that type of scene. It just shows what level the UFL is in.”
“If you have a problem with officiating or anything, there is a proper avenue for it. In front of the crowd, in front of the TV, in front of kids, that’s not the avenue.”