The latest installment of the Battle of Katipunan ended in a 2-2 stalemate between neighbors Ateneo and UP, Sunday afternoon at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field. Three of the four goals came from set pieces, highlighting the mastery of these teams in dead ball situations.
UP started the game in command. The Maroons owned the ball for much of the first half’s opening minutes. Along with it came opportunities to draw first blood. Their dominance in the game however was neutralized by Ateneo’s resolute defending that kept the Maroons from getting clear looks on goal. The best chance in the first 15 minutes belonged to Ian Clariño. The UP defender had enough space to fire inside the Ateneo box but his shot was blocked by Marcelino.
The score stayed level and this was to the advantage of the Ateneans who rarely had a go on the attack but looked dangerous whenever they got the chance. Off a counterattack, the Blue Booters earned a free kick. Presented with a chance to go ahead, the Ateneans made the most of it. Mikko Mabanag’s free kick was about to sail out for a goal kick but Marcelino was unmarked to meet the ball with his head, giving Ateneo the lead with 18 minutes gone by.
The home squad’s lead however did not last long when an opportunity for UP to score from a free kick at the 28th minute was converted. It was Albert Yatco, returning from suspension, who nodded in Jinggoy Valmayor’s delivery to level the score. Afterwards, Daniel Gadia and Valmayor linked up well in the center of the field to produce a glorious chance to put UP in front. Ateneo goalkeeper JP Oracion did his best to keep Valmayor’s shot away from his net and preserved parity until halftime.
In the second half, both teams actively sought to put their noses in front with back-and-forth plays, only being fouled deep into their respective attacking thirds. The Maroons again dictated the pace and were duly rewarded at the 56th minute. Gadia found Valmayor cutting inside the box. As the UP striker was about to shoot, Jin Montemayor cleared the ball into his own net to give UP the lead. The right back was immediately taken off in favor of Tim Perdigon.
Montemayor was saved by Emilio Acosta just four minutes after his catastrophic own goal. The Ateneo forward used his head to beat UP goalkeeper Ace Villanueva off a Mabanag set piece to tie the game up at two goals apiece with 30 minutes left on the clock.
Both teams pursued to draw the game’s fifth goal, but both defenses remained intact, resulting in a 2-2 draw at full time.
“Kailangan kasi ‘yung three points,” coach JP Merida of Ateneo said. He was slightly gutted after the match as they failed to take advantage of NU’s slip up last night. Overall, he still praised the lads who kept pace against the league leaders.
UP gaffer Anto Gonzales rued the mistakes committed by the team, mainly in giving away set pieces from dangerous areas that allowed Ateneo to score twice. “It was very clear from the start na huwag tayong magfofoul sa attacking third [ng Ateneo]. Aside from that, he believed they seized control for the majority of the match, particularly in open play where they created a lot of good but unsuccessful chances.
UP preserves the league leadership for now and will only do so should FEU avoid defeat against second placed La Salle. That match is underway as of press time. Ateneo joins La Salle in second but own an inferior goal difference.