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Amita hat-trick leads FEU in dismantling Ateneo

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Arnel Amita scored three goals to engineer FEU’s 4-0 demolition of Ateneo at the FEU-Diliman Football Field earlier this afternoon. The Tamaraws deservedly grabbed the three points that now allows them to take league leadership with just two games remaining.

The home side called most of the shots in the first half, forcing Ateneo to defend resolutely in order to keep the Tamaraws scoreless. Blue Booters goalkeeper JP Oracion took on the challenge to stubbornly deny FEU to go in front. Eleven minutes in, Jhan Jhan Melliza hurriedly ran towards the Ateneo box to meet a loose ball. He got to it and managed to shoot, but Oracion stuck his leg to keep it out. At the 23rd minute, Val Jurao linked up with Melliza, as the former retrieved the ball and headed it straight to Eric Giganto whose shot was blocked by the sturdy Ateneo goalkeeper. A minute after the half-hour mark, Jurao had his turn to fire from just outside the box but Oracion brilliantly leapt to keep the score level. There were also numerous chances for the Tamaraws to pull ahead but whenever Oracion was not able to deal with it, they missed the target.

Eight minutes before the first half ended, Ateneo right back Jin Montemayor committed a costly mistake when he was culpable of pushing Amita inside the Ateneo penalty area. As a result, the Tamaraws were awarded with a penalty kick. Amita slotted home the penalty by sending Oracion the wrong way to give FEU a 1-0 lead. It prompted the Ateneans to move forward, immediately seeking an equalizer before the break. Paolo Alilam crossed the ball to Emilio Acosta but the forward did not retain possession. Instead, Reymart Cubon cleared the ball before the Ateneo striker got to it. Five minutes before the 45, Emman Paredes had a good look from outside the box but it was blocked by Michael Menzi. Halftime soon came with FEU holding a narrow 1-0 lead.

Entering the second half, Ateneo sustained the attacking rhythm as they eagerly sought ways to break down FEU’s defense. RJ Joyel mistimed his jump, leaving Acosta with space to shoot near the six-yard box. The Ateneo striker got his head to the ball but his attempt was blocked approaching the goal line. On the other side, a critical error due to FEU’s high pressure play led Wilson Marcelino to head the ball past Oracion. It would have been a wise play had Oracion stayed put in goal. Miscommunication between the center back and the goalkeeper gifted Giganto, who was dangerously lurking near the Ateneo goal to control the ball before sliding it uncontested into the net 12 minutes into the second half.

Just a minute inside the last 30 minutes of play, Paredes drilled a neat cross into the box only for Acosta’s acrobatic attempt to be cleared by M. Menzi. From that moment on, it was all FEU. Oracion was called into action again at the 65th minute when he stopped Audie Menzi’s shot on target. However, he was not able to handle FEU’s next chance. Amita scored his second of the day in breathtaking fashion as he launched the ball into the top left corner, leaving Oracion and the rest of the Ateneans stunned and everyone else perhaps captivated. Despite saving attempts by Melliza, M. Menzi, and Balanueco late in the game, Oracion looked helpless when Amita and Melliza connected on a 1-2 pass to slice the Ateneo defense. As soon as Amita got the ball, he lobbed it wisely over the goalkeeper to complete his hat-trick and his team’s rout of the silenced Blue Eagles of Loyola Heights.

“Iniisip namin na kailangan naming manalo para makapasok sa Final Four,” stated Man of the Match Amita, whose three goals allowed FEU to execute their brand of football quite comfortably. He added that the team looks forward to every game as a championship match in order to gain traction entering the playoffs. Despite the lopsided win, Amita thinks there is still a lot for the Tamaraws to work on en route to successfully defending their crown.

Ateneo captain Mikko Mabanag cannot hide his frustration with the result. “Sobrang disappointing kasi pinaglaruan kami sa loob. It shouldn’t be that way,” he uttered. He believes that the team had what it takes to compete but have not made the most of their opportunities. “Against a top-caliber team like FEU, we should be taking our chances. [Today], I think we didn’t.”

The win places FEU above the rest of the pack, tied with UP as both teams have 24 points but are ahead due to superior goal difference. Consequently, Ateneo falls down to fourth with 22 points, just two more than fifth-placed NU. The Bulldogs and the Blue Booters will meet in what looks like a season-defining match on Sunday.

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