Steven Anotado found the net thrice to give UST a crucial 3-0 victory over UE at the FEU Diliman Football Field on Thursday afternoon. The result restores life to UST’s UAAP Season 77 Final Four bid as it is now a point behind fifth-placed NU.
The Tigers pounced on attack early on. At the fourth minute, Efren Menares sent a cross to Gino Clariño whose header was tipped over by UE goalkeeper Lendon Clores. Three minutes after, a corner from Marvin Bricenio found Anotado. Among the players crowding near the UE six-yard box, it was the forward who guided the ball into the net.
UST Coach Marjo Allado credits his team’s aggression right from the start of the match.”Maganda doon ngayon mga attacking namin, mga early attacks namin na co-convert na before mga attacks namin hindi na co-convert.”
UE tried to respond right away but they lacked control in maintaining possession going into the final third. A more even passage of play meant UE’s defense was less intact. Just 13 minutes into the game, Jogi Celiz’s through ball sliced the UE back line and Anotado sprinted to meet the ball before whipping a half volley to breach Clores’ goal again.
Then on, UST moved comfortably throughout the first half, cutting off any chances of providing good looks on goal for the trailing UE team. At the same time, UST pushed forward with the aim of getting a third goal in the half. A couple of penalty claims were dismissed at the 25th and 26th minutes. UST’s Anotado and UE’s Raymart Santiago both fell to challenges inside the box but neither convinced the referee.
Both teams had little attempts afterwards as most of the action happened in the middle of the field. The closest chance generated within the last minutes of the opening half belonged to UE’s Kyhndale Manzo after he blasted a shot over goal from close range. The halftime whistle sounded with UST’s lead steady at two goals to nil.
Just two minutes after the restart, Anotado completed his hat-trick. Menares’ pass located the lurking forward who smashed a half volley past Clores to give UST a commanding 3-0 advantage. As for UE, they never got to respond with a goal but they played better after giving away the third goal. It was unfortunate for the Warriors when John Rey Catalino parried away Regil Galaura’s shot inside the box. The UE player sprinted into the area with a couple of good touches but lacked enough pace and power to squeeze one against Catalino. Santiago ran his fastest to meet the ball but was a second slower in making a pivotal touch that would have bagged them a consolation goal.
UE assistant coach Shem Bensurto expressed that his team was still shorthanded against UST. “Wala si [Jo] Mallen, si [Richard] Mayor, at si [Ramil] Feliciano,” he added while noting the importance of the triumvirate. Mallen is a national youth team member, Mayor is a reliable senior, and Feliciano is one of their quickest wing players. He also lamented the team’s attitude on defense primarily in the first half, but stated that, “noong second half na, nacontain na naman na. Umaatake na kami. So nahirapan kami mag adjust kasi mga rookies yung players namin.”
Allado and his team were ecstatic with the result. “Malaking bagay siya (3-0 win).” He also praised Anotado who now leads the league in goals scored with six to his name. “Iyong scoring, si Steven sumo-score every game except sa UP, pero may mga attempts siya noon.” Lastly, the UST mentor was also pleased with how his gamble on defense has started to pay off. “Iyong back line namin, mga bata pa. Hindi naman center backs mga yun, mga midfielders sila. The more games na ma-experience nila, I think mas nag-aadjust na yung mga bata,” he revealed.
Entering the break, UST now sits in solo sixth, just a point adrift of FEU and NU who both sport seven points in fourth and fifth place respectively. They are also within distance of top teams UP and Ateneo who only have four points more than them, effectively boosting their Final Four chances. Meanwhile, UE stays in seventh but now three points apart from the Tigers, the same points they have more than last-placed Adamson.
UAAP Season 77 football action will resume on the 10th of January with UE trying to grab its second win against the league-leading UP Fighting Maroons.