LOYOLA Meralco's return stint to the semifinals of the Singapore Cup is now in jeopardy.
The Sparks fell into an early hole and came out short of their comeback as they bowed to Tanjong Pagar United, 2-1, on Thursday night in the first leg of their quarterfinals at the Queenstown Stadium.
The Sparks surrendered two goals within the first 18 minutes, courtesy of Ismael Benahmed and Monsef Zerka, whose goals were made possible by Kamel Ramdani.
James Younghusband provided a ray of hope with a volley conversion from inside the box off a Matthew Hartmann free kick that pulled the Sparks to within a goal 25 minutes into the game.
But the Sparks failed to knot the count despite numerous chances the rest of the way against an in-form Tanjong Pagar United side that is currently running third in the Singapore League table.
The second leg is set on Sunday at the same venue with the Sparks needing to win by at least two goals to advance and duplicate their semifinal finish last year.
The Sparks didn't have the same success as fellow United Football League club Global, which escaped DPMM, 1-0, behind Rufo Sanchez's late-game heroics in their own quarterfinal pairing on Wednesday night.