Let’s break down the 3-0 win by Loyola over Harimau Muda B in the opening round of the 2013 Singapore Cup. Here’s what worked and what didn’t work.
Phil Younghusband. Photo provided by author
1. Phil Younghusband playing in the second wave of the attacks. No chance to double team. He blitzed right through and for chances. This was like watching him early in the season when Freddy Gonzalez was healthy.
2. The Sparks dictated the pace of the match (after settling down in the 10th minute). Good to see them taking control of possession. Some will say that Harimau Muda isn’t good. You cannot tell that of a team after seeing them for one game. If you follow that logic, if you saw the Loyola-Kaya second round match, you would infer that the Sparks aren’t a very good squad but we all know they are (they just have to win something for the naysayers to clam up).
The Malaysians gave proper credit to Loyola but at the same time said that this was their worst outing of the entire season. I disagree that they are tired because they had a few days to recover from their win over Woodlands Wellington (and before that against Tanjong Pagar United).
3. Nice to see Oong (Jang Joo Won) given a chance to play the target position. Needs some work but this will give him plenty of confidence.
4. It’s important to keep their shape 4-2-3-1. They did for much of the game but on a couple of occasions, they were nearly caught flat-footed on the counter with Harimau Muda running through the undefended gaps.
5. The subs came up huge. Angelo Marasigan, Jake Morallo and Alex Elnar did their part. Hopefully, this will do well for Morallo’s confidence and decision-making.
6. Simon Greatwich back in the middle. This guy will make a case and compete along with Mark Hartmann and Phil Younghusband for Loyola’s Player of the Year. As I have said and written before, I was hardly impressed last season and he gave away a couple of poor passes that led to goals. But this year, he came in focused, fit, and superbly conditioned. The result is excellent football. I hope he continues this fine form. Clearly, a huge plus for Loyola.
What didn’t work:
1. Part of the game plan was to go hard against the Malaysians but no such thing happened. I realize Loyola is a finesse team and they do not have the personnel to go hard. But they didn’t and this gave Harimau Muda some time to collect themselves. They knew Loyola has some national players but the fact that they were not blitzed gave them some composure. The first two scoring chances of the game went not to the UFL side but the S. League team. When they did go forward, more often than not James Younghusband was open on the left and his teammates never recognized it. What a waste! Field vision is priceless.
2. The Sparks did not exploit Harimau Muda’s being down to 10 men. The coaching staff was explicit in their orders to only pass the ball back if they needed to but they sent it back for a lot of the time (accounting also for the huge pass completion numbers). After a while the Malaysians sat back and waited for what Loyola wanted to do.
3. Missing Rodrigue Nembot and Park Minho on defense saw Jeong Byeong Yeol play in the back (where he played a season ago but has since thrived in an attacking forward/midfielder role). That stifled the attack some. But this is a patchwork unit in some ways with Freddy Gonzalez, Nembot, Park and Jang Jo Won unavailable for the match.
But this was a huge win for Loyola regardless. This is why teams work to get better.
From what I understand, for the next round of the Singapore Cup, there will be another draw. And this can be a nervy moment. But again to be the champion, you have to take on all comers.
When Loyola returns for the quarterfinals, they might have a different look. The UFL will be done and contracts are expiring. So we will see some different players.
Here is what head coach Vince Santos had to say in the post-match interview: “It’s going to be after the transfer window, we might have a change in our look when we come back. Still maybe in the centerback position, maybe a keeper, just for rotation purposes, a striker as well. It’s a long year to play so it would be nice to have a deep bench for occasions like this when you have players injured.”
The next round should be a massive one.