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Loyola zaps Kaya out as Mad Rush to Second commence

Phil Younghusband celebrates after scoring Loyola's first goal that put them closer to AFC football next season.
By Kevin Estrada

MANILA-- The Mad Rush has just begun.

Loyola made a huge statement to the United Football League late Saturday night, zapping nemesis Kaya in a thrilling and rain-drenched match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Vital strikes by forward Phil Younghusband and centre-back Joaco Cañas in both halves pushed Simon Mcmenemy's Sparks to second place on 40 points and in the process, reducing the race to that precious AFC Cup spot into a three-way battle.

Ace Villanueva and Anto Gonzales made a surprise start in goal and in the heart of the backline, with the formerr made himself huge for Loyola after filling in for Gui Hasegawa in the last minute after the Brazilian hurt his knee during the warm-up.

Kaya could only muster a second-half consolation by Eric Giganto, as Chris Greatwich's side suffered a double whammy of sorts, not only they will be eliminated in contention for second, but also they will wrap up their season in fifth, as they cannot even catch up with JP Voltes who won by default over a short-handed Laos earlier in the afternoon to move to a share of third with deposed champions Ceres with 38 points apiece.

The Sparks made its intentions loud and clear at the start of the match, as they dominated proceedings in the first half, with Jason De Jong almost opened their scoring in the 19th minute but the left goalpost denied his shot on target, one of the six Loyola made in the entire match.

Six minutes later, the Azkals skipper duly scored first for the black shirts, latching on a Koichi Belgira cross from the left flank to smack the ball past Matt Acton.

In the second half, Younghusband turned provider in the 53rd minute as he provided the left-footed cross to the Spanish defender in the far post to double their advantage.

Four minutes later, Giganto pulled one back for Kaya on a rebound into the unguarded net after Jovin Bedic hits the post, just seconds after Younghusband missed his own shot to double their advantage earlier on.

The frantic pace of the match saw its physical side of it, with 29 fouls whistled by referee Krizmark Nañola, with the two yellow cards flashed to Kaya.

Alvaro Castiella could have sealed the deal with just seven minutes remaining, but the referee waved it off after he was caught fouling a Kaya player prior to that.

But the UP netminder had the last say of the match, thwarting an Alfred Osei shot deep into stoppage time to cap off his performance between the sticks and pushed themselves closer to their Asian dreams.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada