The Ateneo de Manila University men’s football team finally bagged their second win of the season, in the process denying the University of Santo Tomas booters their first, after subjecting the España-based squad to a narrow 3-2 routing, Thursday afternoon at the FEU-FERN football field.
The Eagles held possession of the ball for most of the first half, and had a couple of good looks early on. Julian Roxas had the chance to draw first blood two minutes into the half, after connecting with a corner kick for a header, but the ball ended up going wide.
UST’s first golden opportunity came at the eleventh minute, after Jogi Celiz managed to escape the Ateneo back line to go one-on-one with Ateneo goalie Jose Paolo Oracion, but the weak tap on the ball was easily scooped up by the keeper.
Emman Paredes had the opportunity to finally bag one in for the boys in blue, striking from just within the penalty box, but the ball ended up whirring past the post. UST too came close to finally breaking the cold spell, after Gabriel Acosta managed to get Ateneo keeper Oracion in an awkward position to set up a clean a cross. The ball was received by a UST attacker, but the ball ended up bouncing off the bar. The ball remained in play for the next few seconds, both squads trying to grab possession, until Oracion was finally able to take hold of it.
It was Roxas who drew first blood at the 42nd minute, connecting with a free kick from Mikko Mabanag to send one into the net with a header and put the Katipunan-based squad up 1-0, a lead they held on to just in time for the halftime break.
Emilio Acosta got into position to pad the Eagles’ score at the 47th minute, but the point-blank shot was easily scooped up by the UST goalie John Rey Catalino.
UST continued to keep up their counterattack, and were rewarded with their first goal at the 62nd minute, after Efren Menares Jr. sent one in via header after a successful set piece to bag the equalizer.
After shifting their focus on the attack, the Ateneans were able to mail their response at the 68th minute, after Emilio Acosta managed to escape the UST defenders and connect with another free kick from Mabanag to bag Ateneo’s second goal.
The Tigers struggled to get their offense going, troubled by the Ateneo counterattack. At the 84th minute, Emilio Acosta managed to get UST keeper Catalino out of position to get a clear look at the net, but found himself chased down by a couple of UST defenders. Acosta tried to get a soft kick to send the ball in the direction of the net, and an accidental tap by UST defender Lord Jimena on the ball only sped up the process. The own goal gave Ateneo the 3-1 lead with only six minutes of regulation left.
But the Thomasians were not to be sullied, and their persistence to mount a counterattack resulted in a 90th minute goal from Steven Anotado, who scored from a stealthy strike from just inside the penalty box. The Eagles managed to disrupt every attack mounted by the Tigers in the three minutes of injury time, and walked away with the victory.
“We’re always improving and that’s the level that we want. We don’t want to stay on one level,” said team captain Mabanag, who was instrumental in setting up Ateneo’s first two goals. “We don’t want to be stagnant. We have to evolve every game and that’s really, really important.”