What had loomed as a potential goal-laden match became a far more cautious affair after Tanjong Pagar United and Loyola Meralco Sparks emerged from the dressing rooms for the second-half of Thursday night’s quarter-final first-leg tie at Queenstown Stadium.
With the second leg to come at Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday evening, both coaches expressed their belief that playing there would suit them, so the 2-1 lead Tanjong Pagar will bring with them on Sunday may not be especially important.
Sparks coach Vincent Santos, whose side finished third in the Philippines' United Football League behind Stallion FC and Global FC, explained that his side had a month off since the end of their domestic season but had continued to train.
“I don’t think the month without a game made a lot of difference,” he said.
“We were very unfortunate to concede from the very first attack that our opponents made tonight and that rocked our confidence a little.
“It was disappointing to concede from a set-piece and then falling further behind and allowing another goal to be scored; but I still fancy our chances over the two legs, as we like playing at Jalan Besar Stadium, where we will be playing on Sunday.
“We’ve had some good results there and the bigger pitch should suit our game a lot better [than Queenstown].
“Also, the crowd can get a lot closer to the action and give us a lot of vocal support."
Santos acknowledged it would not be an easy task to overturn the deficit, but remained upbeat about their chances.
“It’s going to be a tricky one, the second leg, but we are going to take a look at the video of the game and see what we can do to eliminate the mistakes and learn from the first leg," he assured.
“We [have] looked at plenty of tapes of them playing but this time we know how they played against us, which is a lot more meaningful."