After another thrilling encounter between the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles and the De La Salle University Green Archers, the two archrivals’ second round matchup ended in a 1-1 draw, Sunday afternoon at the FEU Diliman Football Field.
The first half opened to an early Ateneo flurry, with the Eagles keeping the La Salle defenders on their toes for the entirety of the first 10 minutes. Emmanuel Paredes came close to drawing first blood at the 5th minute, getting the through pass from Julian Roxas, but the shot from just inside the box sailed past the right post. A minute later, Carlo Liay found himself an opening and just enough space to strike from a little beyond the penalty box, but the ball ended up flying straight over the bar.
The Green Archers’ attack finally picked up care of Nate Alquiros, who proved to be a threat around the penalty box. After maneuvering his way past the Ateneo back at around the 23rd minute, Alquiros found himself with a good look on goal just inside the box. However, his shot was denied by a speeding Wilson Marcelino just as Alquiros positioned himself to kick the ball into the direction of the goal. The next twenty minutes saw the Archers continue to keep their counterattack going, with Yoshiharu Koizumi and Gerald Layumas also getting a couple of good tries. Ateneo responded by producing a few opportunities, getting a boost from Paredes who was relentless in both attacking and creating from the wing.
At the 38th minute, Iñigo Gonzales, after beating the offside trap, got close enough to lure Ateneo goalie JP Oracion out of position, leaving the net unprotected. But just as he launched from the center of the box, Ateneo defender Kendall Colet raced back in front of the net to stop Gonzales’ shot before proceeding to send the high ball back to the midfield. Gonzales had another chance to finally score three minutes later, catching the Ateneo back out of position to collect the through pass from teammate Jojo Borromeo from the right flank, but the ball sailed inches past the opposite post. The Ateneans spent the last five minutes of the half defending a brief flurry from a goal-hungry La Salle side, with keeper Oracion stopping a 45th minute point-blank header from Jose Montelibano. At the half, neither team had goals to their name.
The early second half was greeted with more action on the opposing ends of the field. At the 50th minute, La Salle’s Montelibano had another chance to score from point-blank range, striking from the center of the box without anyone to trouble him. His shot however was easily stopped by the fast hands of Oracion. Five minutes later, Ateneo drew first blood, once again through a set piece. Collecting the corner kick from the left, Roxas kept his composure in front of the goal and sent the ball flying into the net before La Salle goalie Rafael de Guzman could get a hand in.
It was Alquiros who once again took charge for La Salle, reaffirming himself as the most threatening presence around the perimeter of the box and establishing his comfort zone at the right wing. After a series of narrow strikes from the right side of the pitch, a high cross he sent at the 68th minute connected with Montelibano, who was lurking just in front of the goal. Montelibano’s header diverted the ball into the direction of the net, but Oracion reacted in time to parry the ball away before it could enter the goal.
With both teams hungry for another goal, Ateneo to pull away and La Salle to equalize, both squads’ goalies found themselves going the extra mile every time the ball entered the box. At the 74th minute, a free kick was awarded to DLSU. Greggy Yang’s free kick caused a scramble in the penalty box. The ball landed by the able legs of Koizumi who managed to squeeze the ball into the net before the Ateneo goalie could dive back and defend. With fifteen minutes of regular time left, the score was tied at 1-1.
What followed was a physical, nail-biting fifteen minutes for both sides. The Ateneo defenders pushed themselves to make up for the earlier mistake, making sure every La Sallian to enter the top of the field was guarded. The Archers meanwhile found themselves taking the battle to the wing, but struggling to establish a way to cut into the front of the goal.
Entering injury time the score was unchanged, but Emilio Acosta had the chance to finally break the deadlock, after striking from the left side of the box. Though the La Salle goalie was able to dive in time to slow the ball down, he was unable to keep his hold on the ball. Not one Atenean however was able to react in time to gather the ball, as La Salle’s defenders got to it first, sending it back to the midfield. Waiting on the other end was Alquiros, who had one final try from just beyond the box, but his shot was easily knocked off course by an Ateneo defender. Shortly after, the final whistle was blown.
“I’m proud of my teammates. We did good and showed a lot of heart. When we were down, we fought for the ball,” said La Salle captain Gio Diamante after the game. “We’ve kept the undefeated streak and we hope we keep it until the end of the second round.”
“Sayang. We lost points again. We dropped points again. It’s really important for us to get three points because the table’s really tight,” said Ateneo captain Mikko Mabanag after the game.
With the draw, La Salle remains in second due to inferior goal difference while Ateneo stays in third in the standings.
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