By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
The Sparks, one of two invited sides still in the running to win the RHB Singapore Cup, fell to a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their quarter-final clash on Thursday evening at the Queenstown Stadium.
They got off to a terrible start in the sixth minute when slack marking allowed Monsef Zerka to head home a Kamel Ramdani freekick, before more poor defending 12 minutes later saw their defence get carved apart too easily to allow Ismael Benahmed to score with a simple tap-in.
However, Loyola captain James Younghusband pulled one back in the 25th minute when he met Matt Hartmann's freekick with a stunning acrobatic volley to keep his team alive.
As a foreign side, the Philippine outfit have played at Jalan Besar whenever they have been assigned home games.
But having seen his side claim three wins from six games at the venue since making their debut in the competition last year, Santos is hopeful they will enjoy similar success at their 'home' on Sunday as they look to overcome the one-goal deficit.
"I think it's going to be good to review the tape from tonight [Thursday] for the boys to see what happened," he said. "That's the beauty of the two legs.
"We had tapes of Tanjong Pagar but it's difficult to size up your opponents until you've actually played them, but I still fancy our chances.
"There's a full 90 minutes ahead and Jalan Besar has been nice to us. We recorded some wins there last year and we consider it our home whenever we're here.
"The artificial pitch is something we play on regularly in Manila and the size of the field favours the way that we play. Also, the fact that the fans are closer to the pitch gives a bit more energy to the boys and maybe that can be the difference."
Santos also refused to entertain suggestions that his side's lack of competitive action could be used as an excuse for the defeat, given that their United Football League season ended in the middle of last month.
"Of course it's tricky when you come off the end of the league campaign and have a break, and then come into a competition and it's a knockout match in the quarter-finals," he added.
"Furthermore, the team that we're playing is doing well in their league. It's tricky but we can't use that as an excuse for not performing.
"We had a full month to prepare, even though the boys didn't all arrive back [from their break] as the same time. We had time [to prepare] so I'm not going to use that as an excuse.
"We'll review the tape and figure out where we need to make changes and hopefully we'll get a better result in the next game."
Tanjong Pagar United coach Patrick Vallee cut a delighted figure after the game as his side inched closer to the last four of the competition, although he was keen to stress that the tie is yet to be decided.
"I'm happy because we won the game," he said. "But most important is that we qualify on Sunday.
"We've only played one leg and we've claimed a little advantage but nothing is finished. We must focus on the next game.
"But I'm happy with how my team managed the game but maybe just a little bit disappointed with the goal we conceded.
"Loyola are a very good team with good players and I think it was a good game for the fans too. Now everything's okay but let's see if we're the ones who qualify on Sunday."
And despite the advantage, the Frenchman, who won the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League title in 2010 with the now-defunct Etoile, insists he will not be emplying overly-cautious tactics in the return encounter.
"I enjoyed the football today [Thursday] and I'm happy," Vallee added. "But I don't want the players to think it's finished.
"We must again play to win at Jalan Besar. We didn't play defensively tonight [Thursday] because we don't play defensive football.
"If you play defensively, you do not know what might happen in the end. We'll be looking to play our usual attacking football on Sunday."
The other invited side still in the competition, Global - who are also representing Philippines - hold a 1-0 lead over DPMM FC.
Image courtesy of Leo Shengwei