Loyola Meralco Sparks 2-1 Geylang United (aet): Sparks the first foreign team to progress to the next round
In the third preliminary round match of the 2012 RHB Singapore Cup, 2009 Cup winners Geylang United were unceremoniously dumped from the competition
By En Lim
Despite the Sparks being cheered on by a good part of the crowd at the Jalan Besar Stadium, it was Geylang who settled into the game quicker, with more possession and better goal-scoring chances.
However the visiting team soon found their stride and nearly took the lead on 12 minutes through Phil Younghusband, but the hotshot striker’s shot was saved, albeit unconvincingly, by Geylang goalkeeper Yazid Yasin.
The Eagles had Yazid to thank for keeping the scoreline at 0-0 for 40 minutes, as he pulled off two fine saves - the first, an excellent diving save from a Jake Morallo header, after Philip Younghusband had expertly crossed the ball into the box; and the second, parrying a long range shot by Sparks midfielder Mark Hartmann.
Michael King was the Eagles’ brightest spark throughout the game, and was unfortunate not to have scored on 25 minutes when his freekick curled well over the wall, but agonizingly hit the post.
It was the Englishman who eventually broke the deadlock, as a defensive mix-up involving Sparks goalkeeper Ref Buaresma and his defenders gifted Geylang the opening goal. King gratefully stroked the ball into an empty net, ensuring his team went into halftime with a lead.
As the teams appeared for the second half, the Sparks were clearly on a mission to stay in the competition and captain James Younghusband proved inspirational. Just a few minutes in, he beat the offside trap and sent an inviting pass across goal, but Jake Morallo failed to make contact with the ball.
However the Sparks finally got the goal they wanted, after Mark Hartmann coolly chested the ball down before firing an unstoppable volley past Yazid to equalize.
As both teams went in search for the winning goal, the Sparks players were clearly struggling to keep pace as one by one they started to suffer from cramps. The game eventually went into extra-time as the score remained tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes.
The Sparks again looked the more motivated side, and took the lead fortuitously five minutes into extra-time. Park Minho’s fierce shot was deflected into the back of the net by Geylang’s Ishak Zainol, with Yazid Yasin rooted to the ground.
The tired Filipinos then held on to their 2-1 lead for the remaining 20 minutes, to become the first foreign side to progress into the next round of the Singapore Cup, joining SAFFC, Home United and Tampines Rovers.
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