UFL Cup: Sparks run through Archers to claim third place
Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Loyola showcased their attacking qualities by putting the Green Archers to the sword in a 4-1 win, to claim third place in the UFL Cup, Monday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The 2011 runners-up and 2012 UFL third placers finished third again in the Cup as they ran through a lackluster Green Archers side.
Ayi Nii Aryee blasted the Green Archers in front early in the game before Mark Hartmann and Jeong put the Sparks 3-1 in front. Phil Younghusband then wrapped up the game, tapping in his tenth goal of the competition.
The Green Archers started brightly and put the Sparks on the back foot in the opening few minutes of the game. Ayi Nii Aryee was at the heart of the Archers’ attack but his first effort was lashed over the bar from the penalty area and it looked like a great chance gone begging. However, he made up for it with his next attack, as he timed his run to get on the end of a cross and volleyed past Ref Cuaresma to open the scoring in dramatic fashion.
The goal seemed to wake the Sparks up as Rodrigue Nembot nipped possession and burst forward, finding Phil Younghusband on the left and his cross was met with a Mark Hartmann header to equalize.
The Archers almost got ahead again as Lee Sean Saeyoul played in Arnie Pasinabo for a one-on-one chance but he could only hit at Ref Cuaresma in goal. The Archers continued to press forward and get the better chances as Ayi spread the ball wide for Tating Pasilan, but he shot over from a tight angle.
GAU were made to rue the chances as Jake Morallo’s tenacious running was rewarded when he won the ball and found Mark Hartmann in the Archers’ half. The Loyola playmaker flicked the ball to Jeong Byeong Yeol with his first touch and the Korean obliged, lobbing past the goalkeeper to put the Sparks in front.
Soon after, it was three, as Loyola proved clinical in front of goal. Phil Younghusband flicked the ball to Hartmann, who was allowed the room and space to strike without pressure. His shot was low and hard. but it was close enough to Patrick Deyto in goal for him to be disappointed about not getting to it.
In a surprising move in the second half, Jesus Melliza replaced Ayi Nii Aryee, who had proved to be the Archers’ main threat up front. Arvin Soliman then replaced Elvin Marcellana later in the game as the Archers looked for a way back in.
Yet they seemed lethargic still as Loyola piled on the pressure. Phil Younghusband played in Mark Hartmann but he couldn’t finish his hat-trick as he fired into Deyto on the one-on-one. With the Archers pushing forward to get into the game, they were leaving a lot of space at the back though, and as Phil Younghusband left the ball from an offside position, he ran into the space to get on the end of the cross and tap in.
It was the goal which separated Younghusband from everyone else in the competition, as the only player scoring double figures in this year’s Cup. It also showed the Sparks' attacking superiority as they finished up as the UFL competition’s top scorers for the third tournament running, having scored the most goals in the 2011 UFL Cup and 2012 League too.
Much work to do for the Archers
For the Archers, there’s a lot of work to do before the next league season. Unconvincing wins in the knockout rounds bringing them to the semifinals will have only done a little to boost their confidence of finishing higher than eighth this time around.
On their side, of course, are the major corporate sponsorship and upcoming transfer window ahead of the 2013 UFL, which will certainly be the most competitive yet. With the rumors of Chieffy Caligdong’s signing to the Archers growing stronger and a host of other names starting to be linked with the UFL Cup’s fourth-placed team, they may have been outclassed here, but will come back stronger in 2013.
Loyola, meanwhile, showed their fluid positioning and creative attacking, which had led them to become the top-scoring team in every UFL competition since the Younghusband and Hartmann brothers arrived. It caps a year of almosts though for the Sparks, as they finish third in the league, third in the cup, and fourth in the Singapore Cup.
The excitement of the transfer window will soon be upon us instead, as players and clubs start to build ahead of the New Year. For now, both Loyola and the Green Archers can look back on a successful 2012 and a year which builds up the potential for an even better 2013. - AMD, GMA News
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