LOYOLA Meralco put its title campaign in the United Football League back on track after trampling Philippine Army, 4-1, on Saturday night at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig.
Derailed in their quest for a double championship following a string of disappointing results that cost them the top spot, the reigning UFL Cup titlists finally regained their old, fiery form to emerge on the winning end of a rout and start the third round on a bright note.
Super sub Freddy Gonzalez shone brightest with a hat-trick in the second half, where Phil Younghusband also struck for the Sparks, who retook solo second spot from Kaya FC, just two points behind front-running Global.
The Sparks also left the Troopers stuck with 17 points as the military squad moved down a spot to seventh behind Pachanga on goal difference after the latter’s 6-0 win over Socceroo.
"I was just sick and tired of playing bad," said the 36-year-old Gonzalez, whose statement echoed the sentiment of the whole team, Sparks coach Vince Santos agreed.
For a while, though, it seemed the Sparks, coming off two losses and a draw in their last three games, would be in for another tough outing as they were held scoreless after a lackluster showing in the first half.
But the familiar brand of football that had been missing lately resurfaced for the men in orange after the restart where they broke the game wide open.
Ineffective as a starter in the past few games, the 36-year-old Gonzalez provided the spark off the bench as he scored his three goals in a span of just seven minutes starting in the 67th.
Paolo Bugas, the pint-sized midfielder, also made a huge difference as the reigning UAAP MVP out of Far Eastern University assisted on two of Gonzalez’s goals, in the 72nd and 74th, respectively.
John Cain pulled a goal back for the Korean-powered Troopers in the 78th, but proved to be too little, too late.
“Last three games, it felt like we weren’t connecting with each other like how we normally do. And today, it just felt like everybody was finally on the same page again,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t know how it happened, but it kind of suddenly sparked into everybody’s heads.”
“The second half gives us a glimpse of how we can turn around the game and how we should be playing for ninety minutes,” Santos added.