By Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines – Phil Younghusband struck a hat trick as Loyola Meralco Sparks stunned Kaya-Cignal FC, 5-4, Monday to book a ticket to the United Football League Cup 2011 finals.
Air Force Phoenix FC, meanwhile, dethroned Cup titlist Global FC, 2-0, to arrange a thrilling finals showdown versus the Sparks.
Loyola, who made it to the UFL for the first time, staged an audacious comeback from 3-0 down in the first half as it sizzled behind star striker Phil Younghusband’s heroics.
Younghusband, who scored Philippines’ lone goal versus Los Angeles Galaxy last Saturday, found the goal in the 57th and the 69th minute before capping off his hat trick in the 86th minute.
Mark Hartmann nailed the equalizer before James Younghusband gave the Sparks, in the 78th minute, their first lead of the night at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
The Sparks regrouped after Kaya opened up the scoring with three goals in 33 minutes courtesy of Eric Dragoh and Prince Boley.
Veteran Yanti Barsales, in the other game, played hero for the defending league champion Airmen versus the Global booters with a goal in the 87th minute.
Jaylor Soriano pulled one back in injury time which sealed the victory for the Air Force, which lost to Global in last season’s cup finals.
National team members Chieffy Caligdong, Ian Araneta, James and Phil Younghusband, among others, will battle it out in a winner-take-all finals Saturday.