Coming from two straight defeats, the last thing the University of Santo Tomas needed was to drop points. And the Growling Tigers did just that after they were held to a, 1-1, draw by the Adamson Soaring Falcons today (April 9, 2016) in their UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament second round encounter at the McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig. Jusuel Pilarca struck at the 54th minute for he Soaring Falcons while Ronald Batisla-Ong equalized moments later for the Growling Tigers at the 61st minute.
Once the match kicked off, it came as no surprise that it was UST which was the more dominant team. UST had chance after chance to score, yet Adamson were very disciplined at the back and that discipline allowed the latter to frustrate the former. Rookie striker AJ Pasion signaled the Growling Tigers’ intent to score early in the game, only for him to shoot over.
It was quite repetitive to say the least. UST came into this game as favorites and they sure had ground to make up after back-to-back defeats. UST’s Busmion Brothers, Darwin and Dionisio, had attempts at goal in succession, yet a mixture of a poor first touch and some mandatory goalkeeping from Adamson goalkeeper Carl Viray prevented them from getting the goal which would have opened the flood gates.
Eleven minutes into the match, however, came one of the Growling Tigers’ best chances to score. Moments after Viray caught Dionisio Busmion’s attempt, a miscue occurred in the Adamson defense and it allowed UST to have an indirect free kick inside the Soaring Falcons’ box. Darwin Busmion then stepped up to take the free kick, but Viray recovered from his mistake and punched the ball out.
Perhaps the standouts for UST in that period were central-midfielder Karl Bronda and left-winger Jayson Rafol. Bronda dictated play from the middle of the park, while Rafol penetrated the left flank at will. Rafol had a shot towards goal, but Viray was untested.
Adamson, though, were not sitting ducks. Sure, UST had most of the possession, however, Adamson still held up well. Forwards Jusuel Pilarca and Bless Brian Jumo I pressed the UST backline, although the Growling Tigers backline marshalled by center-backs Darryl Regala and Ian De Castro kept the Soaring Falcons’ attack at bay. UST goalkeeper Zaldy Abraham, though, was virtually a spectator and he only had to rush out and claim the ball for every failed Adamson attack.
At the other end, however, it was business as usual. Renz Gumban won a free kick, yet the Adamson defense held firm. Gumban then combined with Bronda to play Marvin Bricenio through, but Bricenio failed to score. Another good chance for UST came later when Viray was forced to put his body on the line to deny Darwin Busmion one-on-one.
Before halftime, UST still continued to search for the goal which would rekindle their confidence. Bricenio failed to shoot after he was crowded inside the Adamson box and the Soaring Falcons then successfully cleared a scramble in their box. It finished goalless at the half, perhaps a fitting reward for how well Adamson defended in the first forty-five minutes.
After the break, UST played with a sense of urgency. Gumban should have scored minutes after the restart, yet Viray held firm to deny him. A fantastic ball was then delivered inside the Adamson box, although poor first touches from the UST players let them down.
Come the 54th minute, however, the twist in the tale arrived. Pilarca harried the UST defense just as he did all throughout the match. Even he couldn’t believe his luck when he found himself one-on-one with Abraham. What should have been a routine clearance for Abraham became a disaster when he failed to make himself big and allowed Pilarca’s fortuitous touch to guide the ball at the back of the net. A shock was on the cards at it was, 1-0- to Adamson.
However, just when all things looked bleak for UST, Batisla-Ong came to the rescue. Batisla-Ong started the game on the bench and was brought on to provide steel to UST’s midfield. He provided more than that, though, when he unleashed a powerful shot meters after the halfway line which ended up at the back to the net at the 61st minute. Viray was powerless to stop that and the Growling Tigers breathed a sigh of relief. UST could have had the lead minutes later, but Gumban wasted a good cross when his header went outwards.
Attempts came and went for UST, yet none really forced a good save from Viray. Rainiel Dosana created a chance for himself, but he eventually hit the side-netting. In contrast, Adamson’s main source of attack were set-pieces. Two free kicks came into the Soaring Falcons’ way, however, they failed to score from at least one of them.
With just a few minutes left in the match, frustration crept in for UST. Adamson played their regular game of staying compact and attacking on the counter. For UST, though, it seemed like their were running out of ideas. All of a sudden, it very much looked like Adamson had control of the game. It made for some compelling viewing to see whether or not Adamson can hold on for at least a point. Dionisio Busmion released another long-shot in the hope of it getting in, Viray, though, was on hand to clear it out.
In the end, Adamson held on for a much deserved point. Adamson could have taken all three points right at the death, but they failed to convert the corner. Not that it gave them a sense of failure. In fact the Soaring Falcons’ players and staff celebrated as if it was a win. As for UST, it would be a case of two points drop and it’s safe to say that they are in danger of missing out on the Final Four for the second straight season.
Understandably, Adamson head coach Nolan Manito was pleased at the end of ninety minutes. “Siguro yung masasabi ko dun talaga, yung pinapaguran namin for the whole week na nag-training kami twice-a-day, lumabas. Although may chance din yung kalaban, may chance din kami.” Adamson has four points this season, more than they did last year. Manito admitted that fact is a sign of progress. “Sa tingin ko pa kailangan pa naming mag-trabaho pa”, he added.
For UST head coach Marjo Allado, disappointment was up in the air. “From the start we had so many chances pero hindi na-convert. And then second half, stupid mistake. Last man yung clearance namin and then yung goalkeeper namin nasa labas yata siya nun, it’s a goal.” Allado then felt that UST still had a lot to play for. “We have to motivate the players. Focus on NU. We’re still alive.”
The result returned UST to the top four at 4th place with 19 points. Adamson, meanwhile, are still stuck at 7th place with 4 points. Up next for UST is National University on Thursday (April 14, 2016; 4:00PM) at the Moro Lorenzo Field in the Ateneo de Manila University campus. On the other hand, Adamson face De La Salle University on Sunday (April 17, 2016; 3:00PM) at the McKinley Hill Stadium.