IT may have quashed its title-retention bid, but the result at least made another team’s own title campaign more difficult.
Defending champion Stallion FC left a huge dent on Loyola Meralco’s championship aspirations in the United Football League as it held the Sparks to a 1-1 draw on Thursday night at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig.
Ruben Doctora canceled out Phil Younghusband’s goal in the first half, before the Stallions put up a brave stand in the final 45 minutes to force the reigning UFL Cup titlists to a stalemate after the thrilling match.
“(But) we had to win the game, so I don’t think, mathematically, it’s possible for us to win the championship anymore,” said Stallions coach Ernie Nierras, whose team improved its point total to 23 points, but stayed in fourth spot.
At least, the defending champions kept the Sparks behind new frontrunner Global FC by a point, instead of letting them reclaim the lead.
Sparks coach Vince Santos remained defiant after the result and is not about to push the panic button with a full round of football left to play.
“For a championship team, especially in a long season like this, there will always come points where you’re questioned on how you really want it,” Santos said. “It’s a question that’s being asked of us right now. And I’m really hoping we can respond to that.”
For a while, though, the Sparks appeared poised for a favorable result when Lee Joo Young drew a foul on David Basa that awarded the men in orange a free kick 31 minutes into the game.
Younghusband, with brother James as decoy, took the attempt and his strike from the near the penalty box went through the Stallion human wall and past goalkeeper Wilson Muñoz for the lead.
But Doctora would not be outdone as the Stallions skipper found the back of the net off the rebound two minutes before stoppage time.
The Sparks continued to control possession in the second half, but failed to find the cutting edge in the attacking third with Matthew Hartmann and Simon Greatwich unable to convert and Rodrigue Nembot and Sam Bonney missing headers off corners.
“It was more of us lacking the quality in the finishing that gave them a chance to stay in the match rather than them really outplaying us,” Santos said.
It was the second straight disappointing result for the Sparks, who suffered a stunning 1-2 loss to Green Archers United last Saturday.