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Shorthanded Kaya edged past Loyola in a Clasico thriller

Masa Omura and Kaya got the better of rivals Loyola for the fifth time in league play.

By Kevin Estrada

MANILA-- Kaya edged past rivals Loyola in a thrilling encounter by the slimmest of margins to end their first round on a high note early Saturday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Senegalese marksman Robert Lopez-Mendy grabbed all three points for the three-time league champions inside ten minutes, and the makeshift backline of Masa Omura and Alfred Osei kept the once potent Sparks frontline of Phil Younghusband and Curt Dizon silent for the entire match for their fifth win against their storied rivals in the fourteenth league fixture between them.

With the win, Chris Greatwich's men in yellow barged back into the top five, with 21 points after eleven matches, dislodging idle Stallion by two points, as JP Voltes were the other big winner of that match, solidifying their hold at third as the Simon McMenemy and his Sparks went home empty-handed against their archrivals for the third time on the trot.

Lopez-Mendy get the better of Gui Hasegawa as he thumped a bouncing header off Miguel Tanton's corner just nine minutes after the match began to start the match in a sparkling overtone.

The Sparks lorded the field with 57% of possession, but their offence found their match on either the Kaya backline, or at custodian Matt Acton who came rejuvenated after letting in five Ceres goals last week, as the latter denied a curling effort by fellow Aussie Tahj Minniecon in the 19th minute.

Omura then came to the rescue of the former Young Socceroo four minutes before half-time, as he cleared Koichi Belgira's chip off the line to preserve the 1-0 lead at the break.

Ironically in the restart, the former GAU man was sent off a minute past the hour mark for his second bookable offence when he took down the Spanish centre-back in a tussle in the Loyola half.

However, Kaya kept their cool the rest of the way, stopping numerous Sparks attempts to equalize to preserve their hard earned win to return to winning ways after having their toughest two weeks of the season when they succumb to back to back defeats against Voltes and Ceres.

A delighted and relieved Greatwich spoke to the media after the match, in which he credited the mental fortitude of his men to recover from those disappointing results the past weeks.

“The culmination of that was the performance today, in which I thought was outstanding. We played with ten men against a decent side on that amount of time, a testament of the hard work that they made during practice. I think the highlight was the true Kaya spirit living up as a result,” Greatwhich concluded.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada