By Gabriel Tan
Loyola fell to a 3-0 defeat to Tampines Rovers at the Jalan Besar Stadium to bow out of the competition 5-0 on aggregate, but it was a valiant effort from the Filipino outfit, who created the better chances in the first half and were only denied by some excellent goalkeeping from Sasa Dreven.
Nonetheless, it was not to be as the Stags moved up a gear in the final 12 minutes and duly piled on three goals thanks to an Aleksandar Duric brace and an emphatic close-range finish by Imran Sahib in the dying moments of the game.
Still, Santos admits he never expected his side, who ply their trade in the semi-professional United Football League, to make it this far, and insists the experience will stand them in good stead.
"There are so many positives for us to take from this experience in playing in the Singapore Cup," he said. "We were here just to participate and learn from the other teams.
"Making it all the way to the semi-finals gives us tremendous confidence, especially going back to our semi-pro league.
"Back in the Philippines, we don't really meet up apart from trainings and matches as some of our players have other jobs, so the chance to travel has really bonded us as a team."
Santos revealed his side had departed from their usual 4-1-4-1 formation and had instead gone for a more-attacking 4-3-3 as they knew they needed goals from the get-go, and lamented their inability to find the back of the net.
"We knew we had to go for it so we decided to play with a 4-3-3 and were looking to get as many people forward as possible," he added.
"In the first half, we made many promising runs but, like in the first leg, just couldn't convert. We started the second half positively too but by then we had to gamble and pushed more people forward.
"It was disheartening missing the number of opportunities that we did and we tried to stay positive, but going a goal down when we did can kill you."
Loyola return to Philippines on Monday evening and will kick off their UFL Cup campaign next week.