Despite trailing by two goals from the first leg, Loyola captain James Younghusband believes the 'home' feel of Jalan Besar Stadium can aid their quest to overturn the tie
|By Kenneth Tan
Two goals down from their semi final first leg against Tampines Rovers, the last foreign invitee in the RHB Singapore Cup - Loyola Meralco Sparks - face an uphill task to reach the final which is to played on 28th of this month.
However, according to the Younghusband brothers, there is real belief in the Loyola camp that overturning the tie is not out of the equation.
"With a score of 2-0, there is still a possibility [to come back] although it could be all over if there's anything more than that," said Phil, the younger of the brothers.
"We have to get a goal early in this game."
The second leg will be played at Jalan Besar Stadium. That was where they played out their first round match and the two-legged quarter-final in front of huge hordes of Filipino fans. Thus captain James is banking on the 'home' feeling of that synthetic turf.
"Jalan Besar Stadium has been like a home ground to us as we're winning on that pitch," he told Goal.com Singapore.
"The experience in such a football environment with the fans present is very wonderful."
Indeed the Sparks did give a good account of themselves on Thursday evening with glimpses of passing movement and dangerous breaks.
Despite having the numerical disadvantage after centre back Kim Woo Chul was sent off, they were the more dominant side in the closing stages and could have even pulled a goal back.
What ultimately proved to be their eventual downfall, according to vice-captain Anto Gonzales and goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma, was the over-focus on shutting out Tampines marksman Aleksandar Duric.
"We focused on Duric so much that we forgot their players on the wing," lamented Cuaresma.
"We paid a lot attention to him," agreed Gonzales. "so much that we failed to close down the source of those long and diagonal balls. They were able to play their game as we were slow to that pressure."
As such, Loyola head coach Kim Chulsu should have spent the last couple of days working out the best strategy to deal with the threat from the Stags.
He will not have similar headaches upfront though, with the amount of options at his disposal.
James Younghusband has recovered from fever which caused him to miss much of the first half at Clementi Stadium and is ready to take his usual spot on the right flank.
Meanwhile prolific forward Mark Hartmann is also expected to start alongside poster boy Phil Younghusband.
That should spell danger for Tampines who will be missing out on their key defensive lynchpin Benoit Croissant. Scoring an early goal with the unsettled backline could well prove to be the impetus for a miracle result for Loyola on Sunday night.