A shorthanded Loyola Meralco shrugged off an early scare from Socceroo before scoring a 3-1 victory to resume its title bid in the United Football League on Thursday night at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig.
Without stars Phil and James Younghusband and Freddy Gonzalez, the Sparks fell behind three minutes into the game before turning it around in the middle of the first half to hack out the victory.
“We’ll take the three points, but apart from that, it’s just those few moments in the match that we had something going that are worth keeping,” Sparks coach Vince Santos said.
Sam Bonney, Matthew Hartmann, and Joaco Cañas emerged the goalscorers for the Sparks, who jacked up their point total to 39 points to regain solo second spot ahead of Kaya FC, although the latter still has a game on hand, while leaving their victims stuck in eighth spot with 10 points.
Diego Barrera was in the right place and at the right time in the third minute when the Colombian striker struck low to put Socceroo ahead and leave the Loyola crowd stunned.
But after committing a handful of defensive lapses, the Division 1 rookies allowed the Sparks to claw back, starting in the 25th minute when Bonney, a center-back, headed home a feed from Hartmann, who put the Sparks on top three minutes before first-half stoppage time.
Cañas, Bonney’s partner at the back, padded Loyola’s lead five minutes after intermission when the Spanish defender found the back of the net to become the third scorer of the team missing Phil Younghusband (abductor pull injury), James Younghusband (suspension), and Gonzalez (abroad).
Socceroo, now only four points ahead of relegation-threatened squad Pasargad, had a few more chances from Lee Jeong Woo, who was just slightly off the mark.
“It would’ve been a different game had lee made those shots,” Soccerro coach Kleng Cacacho said.