LOYOLA Meralco settled for a 2-2 draw against Nomads on Tuesday night at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig, virtually kissing its championship aspirations goodbye in the United Football League.
In their last game before participating in the Singapore Cup, the Sparks failed to sustain the momentum after overhauling an early deficit as they remained in third place despite raising their point total to 33 points.
The Sparks, obviously still reeling from its stunning 1-3 loss to Kaya last week, remained a point behind defending champion Global and six points behind front-running Stallion.
“The game against Kaya, I think, was already the defining moment of our season,” a dejected Sparks coach Vince Santos told Spin.ph after the game. “We should’ve come out stronger. We’re still trying out amongst the team what was missing. Games like that you don’t need any more motivation.”
“We’re still not over our performance (against Kaya),” he added. “We have to address a lot of issues not just on the field tactically. I think it will be a good fit for us to get everyone out and have some more bonding sessions. That’s what we need."
Pressed to expound on possible off-pitch issues, Santos refused, preferring not to “make anything big out of it.”
“But I think you can see it translates into the game sometimes,” the former national team player said. “So not to make it a bigger issue than it should be, it’s something, it’s something we will have to address.”
“Everyone has to look themselves in the mirror and ask what they really want from this. Are we happy to be a club like Loyola or do we want to win the UFL league? Those are two very different things.”
The result mirrored the 2-2 standoff against the same team in the second round of last season that also practically eased the Sparks’ out of the title equation.
“The title’s between Global and Stallion now,” Sparks skipper James Younghusband said. “But we have to be positive. We have to win our remaining games.”
After Mikko Mabanag’s stunning 28th-minute strike gave Nomads the lead, the Sparks retaliated with two goals courtesy of Beyong Yeol Jeong (44’) and Mark Hartmann (46’) that were both assisted by Simon Greatwich to turn the game around.
Just when it appeared the Sparks were poised to pull away, Nomads knotted the count as Bafio Magassa scored on a header off a corner just two minutes later that proved enough to snap an eight-game skid.
Nomads still stayed in eighth place with 13 points to show, a point behind PSG and Green Archers United.