LOYOLA Meralco shrugged an early deficit by sticking to what it does best for a 4-1 victory over Philippine Army at the start of the new United Football League season on Tuesday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Despite missing the services of top scorer Phil Younghusband, his brother James, and goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma, all of whom are with the national team in Myanmar, the Sparks still proved what an offensive juggernaut they are by cruising past the Troopers despite being down by a goal earlier
The win gave the 2012 League third placers three points to gain the early lead in the tournament.
The Troopers drew first blood off a Relan Bretana strike 18 minutes into the game, but the Sparks began their comeback with a Freddy Gonzalez header -- his debut goal for the team -- in the 32nd minute.
The Sparks took the lead seven minutes after as Mark Hartmann converted on a penalty kick.
The Manny V. Pangilinan-owned squad sustained its offensive onslaught in the second half as Byeong Yeol Jeong scored in the 59th minute, before center-back Chad Gould joined the scoring fray with a header 11 minutes later.
“I’m happy with the way we played. I’m glad I finally got to score, finally got that out of the way,” said the 35-year-old Gonzalez, last season's Division 2 leading scorer for Pachanga. “But I’m happier we won and showed great character and played as a team.”
For a while though, the Sparks’ defensive woes were obvious as they let the underdog and aging Troopers, who missed the services of Azkals veterans Ed Sacapaño, Roel Gener, and Boogie Margarse, score the first goal.
“Everybody talks about we’re a little bit thin on defense but what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to play defense as a whole unit, not just the back four. It’s something we’re working hard on,” said Gonzalez, noting his fellow recruits in defenders Jalsor Soriano and Armand del Rosario will boost the Sparks’ defense.