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Ateneo overcomes late Adamson scare to bolster Final Four bid

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Goals from Emilio Acosta and Renko Gaudiel in both sides of the half were enough for the Ateneo Blue Eagles to take all three points by defeating Adamson, 2-1, at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field in Ateneo de Manila University on Sunday afternoon.

The home team dictated the pace of the game. Ateneo captain Mikko Mabanag led his team on the attack by delivering dangerous balls into the Adamson box. Standing in their way was Carl Viray who seemed to have mastered Ateneo’s offense, sniffing out each of Mabanag’s crosses. In fact, the first chance of the game came Adamson’s way when Jackson Ramos’ free kick forced Ateneo keeper JP Oracion to move a bit forward, more than most Ateneans would have liked. Fortunately for him, the Soaring Falcons were not able to capitalize on the gift.

Mabanag, together with Carlo Liay, created opportunities for Ateneo to strike but their efforts were finely dealt with by Adamson. Xavier Alcuaz headed wide twice off Ateneo set pieces while Mabanag was not hesitant in shooting from long range when presented the chance. At the 24th minute, Jin Montemayor sent a cross from the right to Acosta but the forward happened to foul Viray upon reception. His next attempt, however, made a difference. Receiving a cross from Tim Perdigon, the forward ensured he got a clean touch on the ball before nodding it beyond Viray’s reach and into the goal.

After grabbing the lead, Ateneo continued to bombard balls forward. Against the run of play, Adamson’s Brian Jumo redeemed possession inside the Ateneo box due to an error between Oracion and Wilson Marcelino. Unfortunately for the visitors, Jumo II did not elect to shoot the ball the first time, allowing Ateneo to recover and eventually clear danger with nine minutes left before halftime. The teams entered the break with the narrow lead belonging to Ateneo.

The Blue Eagles maintained the attacking mood come the second half. Acosta and Gaudiel had a chance each to test Viray but both were halted by the Adamson back line. It took the coordination of the two players to engineer Ateneo’s second goal. Acosta dribbled the ball from the right flank into the box before passing the ball to Gaudiel who fired a shot right away. It was stopped by Viray but Gaudiel instinctively ran after the loose ball to tap it in before any of Adamson’s players could react.

The Eagles wanted more goals, perhaps to pad their goal difference that may be a factor in their making the playoffs. Acosta, Gaudiel, Julian Roxas, Andreas Maniquis, and Paolo Alilam all had their turns but the Falcons’ defense coped with them enough not to concede a goal towards full time.

Despite defending for most of the match, Adamson had a few spells moving forward. They even restored life to the contest courtesy of Jumo II’s goal eight minutes before the end of normal time. Into stoppage time, Khristian Melliza had two shots from long range, but they were routinely collected by Oracion to preserve Ateneo’s lead at the conclusion of the match.

After the match, Ateneo coach JP Merida expressed disappointment with his team, whom according to him concentrated much more on the attack. Moving forward, he hopes the team will have a better mentality come their next game against FEU. “Sana ipakita nila ‘yung “One Big Fight’–‘yung lumalaban kahit anong mangyari,” he said.

Adamson coach Nolan Manito, meanwhile, cited the fighting spirit his players showed today. “Kinulang lang siguro kami, [pero] laban lang,” he uttered. Coaching a young team, he considers this game as another learning opportunity for his team.

Ateneo now moves to second place with 22 points, keeping them just two points behind number one team UP, who won at FEU-Diliman at the same time against UST. Adamson continues to hold last place, still in search of their first points in the league.

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