Loyola Meralco finally captured the elusive United Football League silverware, but only after surviving a worthy challenge from Pachanga-Diliman, 3-2, in the UFL Cup finale on Thursday night at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
A powerhouse squad that has time and again come up short in either the Cup or the League, the Sparks lived up to lofty expectations at last as they won their first title since being backed by the power distribution giant in 2011.
“The monkey’s off our backs,” a relieved Sparks coach Vince Santos said. “It finally fell our way after being unlucky in previous years.”
They Said It!
“The monkey’s off our backs!” - Sparks coach Vince Santos
“We strung together some good performances, but never as consistent as we were this Cup,” added the former national booter, who treated the victory as a fitting birthday present after turning 39 the same day.
The Sparks, who lost to underdog Philippine Air Force in the their first finale stint three years ago, returned to the same stage once again favored, this time against Pachanga, the former Division 2 titlist now a rising top-flight squad.
The Sparks drew one goal each from Phil and James Younghusband and Chad Gould to negate a brace from Ariel Zerrudo, who can lay claim to the tag as the only man who unlocked the Loyola defense in the season-opening tournament, where the winners had kept a clean sheet in their first seven games.
“Despite conceding two goals, I’m still happy with the win,” Santos said. “It would’ve been better if we kept our defense tight, but I have to hand it to Pachanga. They did a good job. At the end of the day, a win is a win.”
The Sparks were actually on the back foot early on as Zerrudo found the back of the net 16 minutes into the game, before James Younghusband equalized three minutes later.
Gould, who has thrived in his natural striker position after being used a center-back in past competitions, gave the Sparks their first lead a few minutes before halftime.
Phil Younghusband then struck seven minutes after the restart, before Zerrudo fired his second goal a minute later that kept the game competitive.
Despite numerous chances from then on, Pachanga, however, failed to equalize, leaving the up-and-coming squad to look forward to the upcoming League.
Phil Younghusband finished the tournament with league-leading 21 goals that rightfully earned him the Golden Boot and MVP awards, while teammate Baba Sampana was adjudged the Best Goalkeeper.