by Karl Decena, InterAKTV
The Loyola Meralco Sparks aim for a historic feat on Sunday as it clashes with Myanmar Club Kanbawza FC in the second leg of the quarterfinals of the 2012 Singapore Cup at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
After grabbing a 3-1 victory in the first leg last Thursday, Loyola now have a comfortable cushion putting it in good position to become the first Philippine club to reach the semifinals of a regional football club competition.
While the Sparks can on aggregate even if they settle for a draw or lose the match by one point, Loyola does not want to take any chances.
“We cannot afford to sit on a two-goal lead,” said assistant coach Vincent Santos. “We must continue to attack and play smart.”
Team captain James Younghusband also said the Sparks would not relax even with the commanding lead.
“We’re not thinking of the next round as we still have a match to play,” said Younghusband, who scored a goal in the first leg. “We’re sure they will come out even harder and with a bit of desperation. We have to raise our level of play even higher if possible.
Loyola, however, will be missing the services of three players. Midfielder David Cortina was slapped with a suspension due to his two yellow cards in the first leg, while Alex Elnar and PJ Fadrigalan already went back to the Philippines due to work commitments.
Incidentally, Kanbawza will also lose key players for the crucial match, as red cards on Hla Aye Htwe and Zayar Win in the first leg prevent them from suiting up for the team.
Goalkeeper Kyaw Zin Htet is also in danger of missing the game because of a shoulder injury.
Organizers of the event failed to provide live coverage of the games, leaving AKTV unable to air the match. The channel will be trying to air the games live should the Sparks advance to the semis.
The 2012 Singapore Cup is an annual invitational tournament for S.League teams and foreign clubs. Loyola is the first Philippine squad to join the competition.