After their shock draw at the hands of the Adamson University Soaring Falcons last Saturday (April 9, 2016), the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers had it all to do against the National University Bulldogs today (April 14, 2016) at the Moro Lorenzo Field in the Ateneo de Manila University campus. This UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament second round clash meant more for UST as it was them who still had a chance to make the Final Four.
Unlike the dramatic first round encounter, there would be no such thrill today as NU had their bravado removed from them after their, 0-1, loss to the University of the Philippines last Sunday (April 10, 2016. It very much meant that the Bulldogs were there for the taking and it showed when Ronald Batisla-Ong scored a goal each in both halves to (15′ & 54′) to take all three points for the Growling Tigers. Nico Macapal pulled one back for NU at stoppage time (90+2′) but it wasn’t enough with the final score being UST, 2-1, NU.
Batisla-Ong was played in a more attacking midfield position and his ruggedness and vision helped unlock the NU defense. NU, though, had a good chance to open the scoring when Francis J. Abalunan won then delivered a free kick into the UST box, only for Arnel Casil to head wide.
UST, then, had the momentum in the match. Bastisla-Ong and AJ Pasion both had a sniff of goal, yet poor shooting failed them. At the 15th minute, however, Batisla-Ong opened the scoring when his powerful header made its way towards the top right corner of the NU goal.
Perhaps the most dangerous attacking player of NU was Abalunan. Abalunan gave a good cross into the UST box which was headed wide by Macapal. Abalunan then played Darwin Regala through, but the Growling Tigers defense cleared the danger. Lawrence Colina has a speculative effort afterwards which was easily caught by UST goalie Zaldy Abraham.
If there was one person who should have equalized for NU, then it was Chima Uzoka. From a Bulldogs set-piece, Uzoka found some space to shoot yet his shot was overpowered and it went way over. Uzoka then made use of another set-piece to threaten the UST goal, nut his header was cleared off the line by the Growling Tigers. That was the last bit of action before the break and the period finished UST, 1-0, NU.
Nine minutes into the restart, however, was when UST doubled their lead. A long ball towards Renz Gumban proved useful when the said player penetrated the NU box and laid the ball off for an unmarked Batisla-Ong. Batisla-Ong made no mistake and tapped the ball in to double UST’s lead at the 54th minute.
The Growling Tigers could have added more goals in the game, but NU goalie Chris Perocho saved Pasion’s header. Batisla-Ong also shot over and Dionisio Busmion Jr had his indirect free kick cleared by the Bulldogs’ defense. With little to play for, NU struggled to create things at the other end of the pitch. Only a Macapal wide attempt was one of the few attempts they can muster. Colina also had a shot on goal, but Abraham was on hand to catch it.
Come the final five minutes of the match, though, it was all NU. Macapal infiltrated the UST box to pull one back for the Bulldogs. With just few minutes left, NU were in search for a late leveler. The Bulldogs had a corner late in the game, but the Growling Tigers cleared and held on for the, 2-1, win.
The result left UST at 5th place with 22 points, just a point behind a Final Four slot. On the other hand, NU were condemned to 6th place with 16 points. The McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig will be the venue for both teams’ next games on Sunday (April 17, 2016). UST will play UE (8:00PM) with NU playing earlier versus Ateneo (5:30PM)
UST head coach Marjo Allado was relieved to get all three points at the end of the match, “Well, kailangan talaga namin ito eh kasi kung nag-draw kami sa last minute, mawawala si (Ateneo) eh. May sang game pa si Ateneo, kami two games pa. Kailangan talaga namin manalo dito at alam ng mga players ito. Tapos na yung game, 2-1, so malaking bagay ito para sa amin. Ito yung first win namin sa second round eh so sana tuloy-tuloy siya sa last two games namin.”