WATCH: Two scuffles mar Meralco Sparks’ tuneup win over JPV Marikina

MAKATI — With two scuffles in the second half that almost came to blows, the 3-1 scoreline became secondary, as it was an eventful tuneup game between Meralco Sparks and JPV Marikina in Circuit Makati’s Chelsea Blue Pitch that signified that the tension and excitement of the coming season for these two teams are already at its peak as the PFL kicks off in a week’s time.

by Earl Averilla

Meralco won the tuneup game with goals from Milan Nikolic from a corner in the first half, a JPV own goal from a well executed Meralco set-piece, and a brilliant lob by Phil Younghusband in the second half. JPV Marikina got a consolation though from Alexandro Elnar’s header also in the second half.

But what is more notable though are the two events where almost the full lineups of both squads clashed due to the heat of the moment as the game became physical, especially in the second half.

The first instance came shortly after the Sparks registered their third goal of the game. James Younghusband had a scuffle with opposing keeper, Nelson Gasic. Not long after, players from both teams got into the action with shoving and pushing. This was eventually controlled by the referees and the staffs but the two players mentioned were given their respective red cards and their marching orders. Given that this is an unofficial tuneup game, the two were substituted out and replaced to still make it 11 vs 11.

The second scuffle which turned out to be relatively much more heated came near the approach of full-time as Milan Nikolic was brought down by the opposing player from a play. There seemed to be extra motions from the two players that escalated to an almost full blown conflict that again involved almost all the players from both ends.

After tempers subsided, the referee, with the approval of both teams’ staff, decided to bring the match to a close.

What was witnessed by the fans and spectators, with the two fracas featured, it might seem that the match was tainted by negativity. True, violent behavior should not be tolerated but there are certain positive takeaways from the match.

First, the competition is good. With both teams getting into each other’s psych and frustrating each other with physical plays, it showed that it was a tough match-up with both squads thinking that they could prevail over the other. Meralco has always been a competitive organization since the UFL days aiming to win the inaugural PFL season while JPV has been a standout team last season in the same league that aims to ride that momentum into the PFL as well. With both teams setting high standards in their ambitions, a clash like this (even if it is just a tuneup game) could happen.

Second, the passion and drive of the players to win are there. Whether through gamesmanship or physical plays, it was evident that these players are highly invested to give their all which bodes well for the coming PFL from a game-level standpoint. The tuneup game could have spilled into shoving and altercations twice, but tension like what was shown is needed for a good match.

So if the elements pointed to a good match, what needs to be done or the things that should be learned to keep the heads of the players in check and avoid the game to be out of control? Well there is one that comes to mind:

Given that the match took place one week before the actual kick-off of the season, there is an anxiety and excitement from the players so emotions could be running high even before the match started. With this it would be better if there would be PFF/PFL officials or additional enforcers to oversee the proceedings. If there are infractions or violations committed by players or staff, depending on the gravity, they could impose suspensions that could be implemented come the actual season. This will put the behaviors of the involved parties in check.

The match between Meralco and JPV at the Blue Pitch, though marred by these two incidents (which sadly could also be the lasting memories of the game), could be forgivable at this point. There were positive elements that could be plucked from it, but most importantly,  the lessons for the future should be well taken into consideration to improve handling of preseason tuneups.

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