The NU Bulldogs began their Season 78 campaign in sensational fashion, scoring four goals without reply against the UE Red Warriors in the main event of the UAAP men’s football Thursday double header at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field.
The final score did not reflect the complexion of the match. UE and NU both had slow starts as each team only produced a chance each in the opening half hour period. At the 11th minute, Mallen attempted to score from a long range free kick, but NU keeper Elijah Aban had it easily saved. Moments later, Eddie Alivio won the ball inside the UE box. His shot, however, only went straight to UE goalkeeper Lendon Clores.
The game stayed quiet until after the 30th minute when both sides had good looks in front of goal. Macapal saw his attempt blocked by a swarm of rushing defenders. Not long after, Mar Diano had a golden opportunity to put his team in front. Winning an aerial duel against Aban, the forward was disrupted enough for him to put the ball off target. It was a chance that they would rue for the rest of the game.
A minute after UE nearly held the lead, NU mounted a fortunate move. Macapal launched a cross that was parried away by Clores. Unfortunately for him, the ball landed in front of the unmarked Lawrence Colina who had the privilege of slotting the ball into the net. The Red Warriors aimed to respond at halftime, but they coild only conjure an audacious off target dink from outside the box by Mark Lerion. It could have gotten worse for them had Macapal’s header was not blocked in the dying moments of the opening half.
After the interval, UE remained in pursuit of an equalizer. Diano, Regil Galaura and Jeffrey Lacsamana had a go at the NU defense. Their efforts, nonetheless, were futile against a sturdy Bulldog defense. Their aggressiveness moving forward nearly led to a goal in the other end, but Macapal was unable to make a good chance count. The winger was denied by the post in what was one of many NU counter attacks in the game.
Having difficulty to move with the ball after the hour mark, UE gave a good account of themselves in keeping pace with NU. That was until the 72nd minute when Jrv Malayo impeded Paolo Salenga in the 18-yard box. The captain made no mistake from the spot to cushion the Bulldogs’ lead.
Down 2-0, the Red Warriors continued to battle and almost bagged a goal at the 80th minute. Lerion was presented with a good chance but couldn’t find the finishing touch needed. Perhaps they should learn from Macapal, who compounded their misery with a brace inside the game’s final four minutes. The first of which was a nifty finish from rookie Marvin Viray’s delicate through ball at the 86th minute. Four minutes later, he rose above everyone to head the ball in from Francis Jay Abalunan’s cross, making the win appear easier than what it really was.
NU coach Wilhelm Laranas felt flattered by the result but insists that the team is still far from where he wants them to be. “Konti lang kasi ‘yung lumabas sa plano. I think we need to improve more on the system,” he assessed.
The Bulldogs’ win puts them on top of the table with three points alongside a superior goal difference of plus three (+3). They have a chance to sustain their upbeat start to the season against Adamson on Sunday. On the same day, the Red Warriors will look forward to claim their first win when they meet UST. Both games will be played at the McKinley Hill Stadium.