The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons endured a poor start in the second round of the UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament.
The Fighting Maroons drew in a game they should have won against the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 3-3, and they were at risk of losing more ground against a dangerous De La Salle University Green Archers.
But UP managed to pull through in the end to defeat La Salle, 2-0, at the McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig. Feb Baya (35′) and Kintaro Miyagi (65′) were the goalscorers for UP, and they will no doubt be encouraged with how clinical they were in front of goal today.
Of the two teams, it was UP who enjoyed a brighter first half. Daniel Gadia was once again dropped to midfield while Carlos Monfort took his position as the striker. On the other hand, La Salle dropped captain Gelo Diamante to the bench and started in a 4-4-2 with Rigoberto Joseph and Cristian Zubiri as the two strikers.
From the first minute, UP were the more cohesive team compared to La Salle. The Fighting Maroons were able to test the Green Archers’ backline more due to their rookie wingers Rvin Resuma and JB Borlongan. Resuma and Borlongan worked the flanks effectively to create chances for Monfort, who had a shot blocked by the La Salle defense.
Aside from Monfort, Gadia was an outlet for UP with his late runs into the La Salle penalty box. Gadia ran into space and found a chance to shoot, but he was stopped by a good save by La Salle goalkeeper Paeng De Guzman. The constant penetration of UP’s attackers helped them win free kicks in dangerous positions. Center-back Patxi Santos stepped up to strike the dead ball and his first free kick led to a good ball headed wide by fellow defender Ian Clarino.
It took until the 35th minute for UP to finally get the goal they deserved. Borlongan won a free kick near the left corner flag. Santos then took it and his attempt hit the crossbar. Luckily for the Fighting Maroons the ball didn’t go out of play, and it landed with Resuma, who then crossed it towards Baya. Baya made no mistake as he side-footed the ball into the net.
As for La Salle, they rarely threatened UP goalkeeper Ace Villanueva in the first half. Joseph and Zubiri lacked service and they were forced to press the UP defense in the hope of forcing a mistake. Zubiri found an opening when he intercepted the ball, but his long shot was wide. With chances from open play a rarity for La Salle, the Green Archers were forced to conjure attempts from set-pieces. However, their passes into the UP box were easily cleared by the Fighting Maroons.
Greggy Yang had two chances in the first half from the edge of UP’s penalty area, but he failed to test Villanueva in both instances. UP, though, could have doubled their lead at the stroke of halftime when Borlongan produced a good cross to Monfort, but the latter’s shot was too tame to threaten De Guzman. UP were deservedly up 1-0 at halftime.
A similar tale unfolded in the second half as UP continued after where they left off after the break. The Fighting Maroons won free kicks in La Salle’s half, but Baya and Christian Lapas directed them wide. Borlongan then had a free kick but Miyagi headed it over the crossbar. UP were as solid in the defense as they were clinical in attack. That solid defense led the Fighting Maroons to create a swift counterattack but De Guzman was alert to kill the attack.
UP consequently doubled their lead at the 65th minute, and it was a well-worked goal by the Fighting Maroons. Gadia, who has seen an upturn in form ever since he was brought back to midfield, created a great pass towards the La Salle goal, and Miyagi only had to put the ball at the back of the net. The Fighting Maroon made no mistake and calmly finished the move.
La Salle, though, were able to attack better after the break, but UP still had them in their pockets. What summed up the Green Archers’ day was their failure to put the ball in the back of the net after a scramble in the Fighting Maroons’ box. Jojo Borromeo then won a free kick after he was fouled by Gadia, but the resulting free kick taken by Nace Gonzales hit the UP wall. Rookie Javi Romero-Salas had a good attempt on goal at the edge of the penalty box, but Villanueva was on hand to catch the ball.
Borlongan and Magdato had chances to triple UP’s lead but De Guzman dealt with them both times. In the end, UP enjoyed a good win against La Salle. While the Fighting Maroons couldn’t recover the two points lost last week, they showed that they were capable of bouncing back in a big way. La Salle, though, are currently in a slump; two straight losses are tough to take. The Green Archers have to recover sooner rather than later or they risk seeing the hard work they put in the first round go to waste.
Anto Gonzales, UP’s head coach, was pleased with his side’s win. Gonzales said, “I was quite disappointed with our first half. We couldn’t really play up to the level that we are capable of. But I’m happy with the adjustments [the players] made in the second half. I thought we were more patient.”
He was also happy with how clinical his team had been in front of goal. “I think so. We didn’t really have a lot of attempts but at least we scored two goals. We just had seven, eight attempts but at least we finished them very well.”
The result UP now has 15 points and are elevated at 3rd place. On the other hand, La Salle remains at 2nd place.
UAAP Football will resume on March 31, 2016 (Thursday) at the Moro Lorenzo Field in the Ateneo de Manila University after the Holy Week break. UP will take on eighth-placed University of the East (2:00PM kickoff) on that matchday. On the other hand, La Salle resume their campaign on April 2, 2016 (Saturday) against the National University at the McKinley Hill Stadium, kickoff time is 8:00PM.
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