The National University Bulldogs and De La Salle University Green Archers ended the first round with a point each, after their UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament match at the Moro Lorenzo Field at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Paolo Salenga (15′) and Gerald Layumas (11′) were the goalscorers for NU and La Salle, respectively, but it would be the Bulldogs who were left to lament dropped points.
In the early minutes of the match, the two teams relied on set-pieces to create chances. Both teams’ defenses, though, were able to clear the danger. It didn’t come as any surprise, however, that the first goal came from a set-piece. Greggy Yang had a free kick cleared for a corner by the NU defense. That same corner was taken by rookie Jed Diamante, and the ball was headed towards the back of the net by left-back Layumas in the 11th minute.
That was very much La Salle’s only decent chance in the first half. For some reason, the Green Archers lost their way after they drew first blood. On the other hand, perhaps remembering coach Lem Maranas’ lessons about heart, NU immediately pushed for the equalizer.
La Salle’s defense lost the ball at a dangerous position. Luckily for the Green Archers, the Bulldogs failed to capitalize and the chance went begging. That moment, however, initiated the NU bombardment. The Bulldogs won a free kick right outside the La Salle penalty box. Lawrence Colina stepped up, but his resulting attempt forced a good save from La Salle goalkeeper Paeng De Guzman. The Bulldogs finally got the goal they deserved in the 15th minute when Salenga headed the ball home from a corner. Patrick Valenzuela then successfully penetrated the La Salle defense, but a foul on De Guzman ended the attack.
NU maintained their intensity while La Salle struggled to keep up attack-wise. Marole Bungay eluded the La Salle defenders but he overdribbled the ball. Nico Macapal and Jay Abalunan had shots on goal but De Guzman held firm. NU should have led by more goals at halftime, but the Bulldogs were definitely the more satisfied team at the break. La Salle, however, had much to talk about. It finished 1-1 at the half.
Come the second half, it was the Bulldogs who looked closest to scoring. NU had a goal disallowed five minutes into the second half due to handball. Salenga then had a shot wide moments after. The Bulldogs kept on pushing, and an acrobatic volley from Macapal went over.
Even if La Salle were pegged back, the Green Archers still had attempts on goal via substitute striker Rigoberto Joseph. Joseph directed his header wide from a corner and then scuffed another shot outwards under pressure after a pass from Jojo Borromeo. Those chances were very much it for the Green Archers, as they struggled to create more from open play.
It was in the 87th minute when the game should have been won. Colina rounded out De Guzman, who was then in no-man’s-land, but the former’s attempt was deflected out for a corner with the goal at his mercy. That was the golden chance of the match and it ended in a draw, with both teams frustrated for different reasons.
Frustration was the theme from both coaches after the match. Laranas said, “Frustrated siyempre. We have three, four clear chances in clear, clear chances pero wala eh. The first one was like decision, decision eh. It’s a matter of how they finish it. Sayang. Ang daming chances. The clear was was the one vs one already. We gained the momentum already. We started strong. We end strong. We mostly dominated the whole time pero back to finishing.”
As for coach Hans-Peter Smit, it was the inconsistent nature of the Green Archers that left him exasperated. “We played every team differently but games like these… I mean you won’t see it. I’m not taking away anything from UST and NU that drew us but I know my players more than anybody else and there was no urgency. Just like the game against UST, there was really no sign of urgency. Like I said before the problem is attitude, attitude, attitude.”
The result left La Salle on top of the standings at 17 pointsm while NU had finished the first round with 9. With the second round of fixtures to come, both teams have things to improve if they want to secure a slot in the post-season.