Powered by a first half penalty goal from Carlo Liay and the swift hands of goalie Jose Paolo Oracion, the Ateneo de Manila University men’s football team laid the smack down on their neighbors the University of the Philippines, 1-0, Sunday afternoon at the FEU-FERN football field.
Ateneo’s Mikko Mabanag had the chance to draw first blood at the fifth minute, finding himself free for a powerful strike from the top right corner. The ball however was stopped in its tracks by the hands of UP goalie Ace Villanueva.
The first great UP attempt came in the form of an 8th minute header from Julian Clarino to connect with a corner kick, but the ball ended up going wide. UP’s leading scorer Gerardo Valmayor had the chance to score the game’s first goal after being awarded a free kick from just beyond the penalty box, but the powerful strike was easily stopped by Ateneo’s Mike Castillo.
The next few minutes saw Ateneo mount attack after attack, but all were stopped. Mabanag was given the chance to score a goal for his side at the 20th minute, after UP was called for a foul in the penalty area. He was however unable to score on the penalty kick, after UP goalie Villanueva managed to get a hand in to send the ball off course. Mabanag got the chance to make up for the denied goal in the 23rd minute, converting the free kick from just beyond the penalty box into a strike on the goal, but the ball was caught once again by the UP keeper.
The deadlock was finally broken at the 28th minute, when Liay was sent to the penalty area after another UP foul. Liay managed to send the ball flying past Villanueva to give the Blue Booters their first goal of the game and the lead.
A chance for Ateneo to further extend the lead came three minutes later, after Jin Daniel Montemayor’s volley connected with teammate Julian Roxas just in front of the UP keeper, but the header was stopped once more by the quick hands of Villanueva. UP came close to bagging the equalizer at the 40th minute, with Valmayor trying to strike from the free kick, but the ball was stopped in its tracks by Ateneo goalie Oracion. The first half ended with Ateneo still leading one goal to none.
UP’s Valmayor, who already has four goals this season and has scored in each of his previous appearances, was subbed out at half time.
The early second half saw Ateneo take control of the ball to produce a couple more near-successful attempts. Team captain Mabanag came close to producing Ateneo’s second goal at the 52nd minute, charging from the left wing to get close enough for an easy goal, but the ball was swept from his feet by the UP goalie.
Around the 67th minute, Emilio Acosta too got into position for an easy strike after escaping UP defenders and luring Villanueva out of position. However, the UP back line managed to recover in time to catch up and steal the ball just before he could pull up for the shot.
It was entering the 70th minute of play that UP’s attackers finally found a way through the Booters’ defense. UP’s Lou Adrian Rafanan got through the Ateneo back line and went for the low cross to teammate Daniel Gadia, but the ball was immediately stopped by Ateneo defenders.
A free kick from Maroon Alfonso Ancheta at the 76th minute from just beyond the penalty area came close, connecting with the UP attackers lurking in front of the goal, but the ball was easily plucked by Oracion.
The UP surge continued well into the last ten minutes of regular time. The 80th minute was welcomed by a couple of near-successful attacks set up by Rafanan and Rogie Maglinas, whose crosses from the wing kept the Ateneo defenders on their toes. However, Ateneo keeper Oracion managed to hold the fort, denying the Maroons the equalizer.
Clarino also helmed a couple more near-successful attempts from the UP side, and at the 88th minute came close to forcing the equalizer with a long strike from just around the penalty line, but the ball sailed far over the bar. Maglinas too had a chance at the beginning of injury time, connecting with a free kick from Ancheta with a header that sent the ball into the direction of the Ateneo goal. Oracion managed to knock the ball off course and cleared the ball. At the end of injury time, it was Ateneo who walked away with the win.
“We addressed the midfield. First, defensively. We had to contain the midfielders of Ateneo and from there build our attack,” said UP head coach Anto Gonzales when asked about his team’s resurgence later in the second half. “I think maganda rin ang pasok ng wingers namin. They were able to send some crosses sa taas.”
With three more points in tow, Ateneo moves up the standings to solo first with ten points. UP meanwhile has seven points at fifth.