Sparks, Kaya side settle for 2-2 draw
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Loyola Meralco Sparks FC weathered a late rally by Kaya FC to score a 2-2 draw and clinch the top seeding in Group A heading into the semis of the PFF-Smart Club National Championship Monday night at Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Phil Younghusband and Mark Hartmann provided the Sparks with a 2-1 cushion and even if the Sparks conceded the equalizer to Kaya’s Jovin Bedic, they played resolute defense in the last 35 minutes to preserve the tie.

The standoff was enough to send Loyola Meralco atop the group with seven points on two wins and a draw and into a semifinal duel with the No. 2 team in Group B on Thursday.

Ceres-La Salle FC later secured the other Last-4 berth of the group after beating Laos FC, 1-0, behind the 55th minute goal of Patrick Reichelt. The Negros Occidental club finished group action with six points on two wins and one loss and will face the topnotcher of Group B for a finals spot also on Thursday.

Kaya missed out on the semis after logging four markers (1-1-1 win-draw-loss).

“It was a tough game because Kaya gave it their everything because they needed to win,” said Loyola Meralco coach Simon McMenemy.

The Sparks needed only a tie to advance, thanks to their 1-0 upset of Ceres in their intense showdown last Saturday that gave them six points through two games.

“The boys put a lot into the Ceres game so there were plenty of tired legs today (against Kaya) and I’m just pleased we were able to hang on,” said McMenemy.

Facing a must-win situation to salvage a semis seat, Kaya poured it all and took just 23 minutes after the opening whistle to draw first blood, courtesy of Miguel Tanton.

But Loyola Meralco quickly drew level as Hartmann found the back of the net just 60 seconds later. Younghusband delivered a pinpoint strike in the 35th minute as the Sparks took the lead at the half.

In a spirited effort to snatch the victory and grab the maximum points, Kaya turned on the heat on offense, even sending captain Aly Borromeo to join the attack, but only managed to tie the match a second time via Bedic.

The Loyola-Kaya standoff put Ceres on a win-or-go-home predicament against Laos in the second game.

Despite enjoying possession for long periods, Ceres couldn’t break down a compact Laos until the 55th when Reichelt, pouncing on a confusion inside the Laos, fired a low shot that became the marginal goal that sent the Bacolod club into the semis against the No. 1 team in Group B.

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