By Ian Griffiths
Tampines ground out a hard fought 2-0 win in the first leg encounter at the Clementi Stadium on Thursday, as goals from veteran striker Aleksandar Duric and constant livewire Ahmad Latiff handed Singapore's reigning league champions the advantage prior to this weekend's return clash.
Although the controversial dismissal of defender Kim Woo-chul only added to Loyola's woes on the night, Phil Younghusband has declared that the Filipino team are ready to right some wrongs at the Jalan Besar Stadium and secure their passage through to the final of Singapore's premier cup competition.
"At 3-0 or 4-0 we would have been out of the tie, but at 2-0 we are still in it. The scoreline as it is now gives us a real opportunity," the 25-year-old Loyola and Philippines forward told reporters at a press conference in Singapore on Friday.
"There's no doubt that an early goal on Sunday now has the potential to make a huge difference," he added.
Roared on by a large number of Loyola supporters, the Sparks started brightly against Tay Peng Kee's men, before ultimately succumbing to a brace of sumptuous strikes.
Despite facing an uphill struggle to overcome their ASEAN rivals, Phil Younghusband believes there were signs that a reversal of fortunes is more than possible.
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"Before the first (Tampines) goal, I thought we played quite well," he said.
"I thought we looked dangerous and that we were able to catch them on the counterattack. That first (Tampines) goal shook us and once they had scored they looked to keep possession.
"In the end, it became a case of catch-up as we forced to chase the ball.
"However, we always said that we couldn't win the semi-final overall in the first leg, but that we could lose it. We believe we still have every chance."
While Kim will be suspended for the second leg, along with Tampines star Benoit Croissant who, like Kim, was also sent off for a second bookable offence, Loyola are expected to welcome back James Younghusband to their starting line-up on Sunday.
The midfielder has now fully recoverded from a fever which forced him to be named on the bench for Thursday's match.