By Gabriel Tan at the Jalan Besar Stadium
Philippines international Philip Younghusband fired the United Football League outfit ahead in the 15th minute when he was left with a simple tap-in after good work down the left by Jeong Byeong-yeol, before KBZ midfielder Hla Aye Htwe was sent off right at the break after a scuffle with James Younghusband.
Mark Hartmann then doubled the Sparks' advantage six minutes after the hour mark and it began to seem as though Kanbawza were about to lose the plot when they were reduced to nine men after Kyaw Zayar Win picked up his second booking.
Nonetheless, Soe Min Oo glanced home a header 15 minutes from time to give the Myanmar side brief hope, although that was extinguished in injury-time when James Younghusband grabbed a third for his side.
Having been pipped by Global to their domestic league title just last month, a chance at Singapore Cup glory presented the perfect chance for Loyola to bounce back from that disappointment.
However, it was KBZ who started the brighter of the two sides and created the first real opening in the seventh minute when Tercio Machado fired a fierce shot over after Soe Min Oo had nodded the ball straight to him on the edge of the area.
The Brazilian playmaker wasted another good chance in the 13th minute when he again failed to keep down a volley from six yards out after Charles Obi had did well to beat Jang Jo-won by the touchline and whip in a low cross.
And the Myanmar side were made to rue Machado's misses just two minutes later when Loyola took the lead against the run of play. After winning possession just inside the opposition half, Jeong went on a bursting run down the left before sliding a perfectly-weighted ball into the path of Philip Younghusband, who made no mistake from close range.
Nonetheless, Kanbawza were dealt a bigger blow moments later when goalkeeper Kyaw Zin Htet had to be replaced having picked up an injury in his attempt to keep out the Sparks opener. His replacement Yawai Zin did however do well to prevent Loyola from doubling their lead in the 25th minute when he raced off his line to deny Jeong, who had raced through on goal after Han Win Aung completely scuffed his clearance.
Three minutes after the half-hour mark, Soe Min Oo thought he had equalised after turning home a cross from close range, only to be denied by the linesman's flag, before Kyaw Zayar Win picked up a booking four minutes before the break after going down inside the area in search of a penalty.
Unhappy with the increasing number of decisions going against them, Kanbawza started to let their frustrations boil over and were duly reduced to ten men on the stroke of halftime, when Hla Aye Htwe was handed his marching orders after lashing out at James Younghusband following a brief tangle between the two players.
Despite now being at a numerical disadvantage, KBZ nearly pulled level three minutes after the restart when Soe Min Oo had a goalbound effort cleared off the line by Andres Gonzales after Ref Cuaresma had flapped at a corner.
It was then the Sparks' turn to come excruciatingly close in the 51st minute when Hartmann curled a delightful freekick around the wall and back off the post, although there was to be no denying him 15 minutes later after Samuel Hanson failed to deal with a Philip Younghusband cross from the left, allowing the Philippines international to nip in and coolly slot past Yawai Zin.
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Things then went from bad to worse for P.N. Sivaji's charges as they were reduced to nine men in the 69th minute when Kyaw Zayar Win picked up a second yellow after a cynical foul on Park Min-ho, as Kanbawza's hopes for victory appeared to be evaporating by the minute.
Still, they refused to give in without a fight and pulled one back six minutes after when a terrific left-wing cross from Machado was glanced home by Soe Min Oo, and twelve minutes later they nearly drew level when Obi curled a splendid first-time effort from the edge of the area just wide of the bottom corner.
However, it was always going to prove a tough ask for them to come back from two goals down with two less players, and just as the clock ticked over into injury-time, James Younghusband played a clever one-two with his brother Philip before emphatically firing past Yawai Zin to ensure Loyola head into Sunday's second leg with a healthy lead.
Loyola Meralco Sparks: Ref Cuaresma, Alexandro Elnar, Jang Jo-won, Park Min-ho, Roxy Dorlas, James Younghusband, Andres Gonzales, Davide Cortina, Jeong Byeong-yeol (Peter Fadrilagan 90'), Mark Hartmann (Jake Morallo 80'), Philip Younghusband.
Kanbawza: Kyaw Zin Htet (Yawai Zin 17'), Han Wing Aun (Aung Myat Min 74'), Win Min Htut, Samuel Hanson, Khaing Zaw Tun (Kyaw Zayar Win 33'), Hla Aye Htwe, Tercio Machado, Nay Win Aung, Soe Min Oo, Charles Obi.