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Kaya stuns Loyola in comeback to continue Cup defence

By Kevin Estrada

MANILA--Reigning UFL Cup Holders Kaya lived to fight for another week as they pulled the comeback against the Loyola Meralco Sparks, 2-1 in the second quarterfinal Saturday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium

Robert Lopez-Mendy's cracker from outside the box with just a minute left in normal time sends the three-time league champions to the semifinal for the second season running, at the expense of the Sparks whose own streak in the last four ended in four and will try to finish their Cup stint to the Plate where they last won in 2011.

Before the heroics of the Senegalese centre-forward, Masanari Omura equalized for Kaya in the 73rd minute to negate the first-half strike of James Younghusband, whose Sparks have lost to their archrivals for the eight time in 20 competitive fixtures since 2010.

Both Simon Mcmenemy and Steven Nicholls fielded their strongest sides for the much anticipated match in the knockout stage, albeit both made changes to the netminders, as first-choice Tomas Trigo and Matthew Acton get the nod to start for the archrivals.

Loyola fired the first of their warning shots immediately, with the elder of the Younghusband siblings shoots it directly to Acton, setting the stage for an exciting yet balanced encounter.

Kaya had one of their best chances in the half in the 24th minute, as Woody Ugarte missed his open header after a goal mouth scramble saw Kaya's couple of shots blocked by the Loyola defence.

Then ten minutes later, Lopez-Mendy had two chances to draw first blood for Kaya but all of them went to nothing as he missed a cross then he breaks away from the Loyola defence but found his match with the crossbar.

Those missed chances were made to pay against Kaya, as the Loyola skipper finally get them on the board with a header off the right wing in the 38th minute. That strike pruved crucial, as they went to the changing rooms with a 1-0 lead at the halftime.

Second half proved as more explosive as the first 45 minutes, with both teams had some of their glorious chances, as evident in the end-to-end stuff before the 70th minute, with Lopez-Mendy and Jason De Jong were left to rue those golden opportunities.

The industrious work by the Cup holders finally bore fruit three minutes later, as the Japanese centre-back pounced a Kaya corner and dives in a low header for the equalizer.

The final ten minutes was a frantic, mad-rush action as both clubs were finding the winner, but the missed shots left the 476 fans inside Rizal Memorial disappointed.

With a possibility of an extra time looming, Lopez Mendy then completed the comeback with a long-ranged strike to bring the roof of the Rizal Memorial down with a minute left in addded time.

Despite late drama in added time as Anton Del Rosario fouls the Senegalese hard, Kaya held on to defeat their bitter rivals to continue their Cup defence as march on to the last four.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada