A goal in each half amidst a plethora of chances saw La Salle stroll past the still-winless Adamson, 2-0, to claim a spot in the Final Four on a rainy Sunday afternoon at the FEU-Diliman Football Field.
The Lasallians immediately seized command as soon as the game began. Gregory Yang had numerous set pieces that were either thwarted by the Adamson defense or placed wide by his teammates. However, Adamson was gifted an opportunity to score 14 minutes into the match. Brian Jumo II was fouled by Tonichi Bonoan inside the box but the Soaring Falcon was not in control of the ball, hence earning his team just a free kick inside the DLSU box. Goldwyn Espina’s shot, nonetheless, only struck the wall.
It was the only clear chance of the Falcons in the first half as the Lasallians reasserted dominance. A Yang free kick at the 20th minute bounced into the net, catching everyone by surprise as he put La Salle ahead. It opened more room for DLSU to score as Adamson was forced to defend until halftime. Whenever the Falcons sought to exploit La Salle’s high line, they were either halted by alert DLSU defending or poor positioning that found them offside. As for La Salle, they continued to pummel the Falcons’ box with multiple deliveries only for those to not meet the desired targets. There were a couple of opportunities coming from Jhoguev Ybañez and Jojo Borromeo, but both misfired at the 35th and 37th minutes respectively to keep the score at 1-0 by the interval.
La Salle maintained control of the game in the other side of halftime as they looked to sharpen their finishing while also protecting their advantage. Eight minutes into the half, Gio Diamante blasted his shot over. Inside the same minute, Yoshiharu Koizumi retrieved the ball from just outside the box to set up Chuck Uy but Adamson goalkeeper Carl Viray managed to keep Uy’s attempt from breaching his goal. It looked to have been déjà vu moments after when Diamante lashed a shot off target before Koizumi and Uy teamed up again. Only this time, Uy slotted it into the bottom corner to score his team’s second goal of the match.
Adamson almost pulled one back but Jusuel Pilarca’s shot off a DLSU defensive lapse was nowhere near La Salle keeper Paeng de Guzman’s goal. Diamante, Alquiros, and Nicko Villacin had good chances inside the box but the young Adamson defense held firm in preventing La Salle from netting more goals. For their part, Adamson managed to test the La Salle back line late in the game with the Jumo twins Bless I and Brian II generating moments. Jumo I had two shots, one caught smoothly by de Guzman with the other sailing wide while his twin brother, Jumo II, was beaten to the ball by the DLSU goalkeeper three minutes before time.
DLSU captain Diamante pinpointed the team’s need to work more towards their finishing, particularly as they are bound to face tougher opposition in the future with Final Four-bound UP and current fourth-seeded squad NU coming up this week. “We really need to score goals. We missed a lot of chances [today]. The most that we could score [this season] was five… We’ve only scored one or two [in most games] so we really need to do better,” he identified. True enough, La Salle’s two-goal win was not indicative of the game’s complexion as the boys from Taft had the lion’s share of the ball only for their neighbors from San Marcelino to survive the series of La Salle’s attacking spells.
Speaking after the loss, Jumo II said, “Pinipilit naming lumaban talaga kahit bago kami [kaso] nandiyan pa rin ‘yung kapag maiskoran agad sobrang down agad kami.” Noting that the squad is still in the process of learning in their first year as a UAAP team, Jumo II and his teammates could only continue to battle their way against other teams en route to establishing a winning culture in the league eventually.
DLSU joins FEU and UP in the Final Four with only seeding yet to be determined. La Salle can assure a top three finish by getting at least a point this Thursday against the UP Maroons, who are level on points with FEU but are in second due to inferior goal difference. UP and La Salle have a game on hand as FEU only has one more game compared to them having two. Adamson, meanwhile, is still without a point but can elude finishing last by winning their remaining games, starting off against UE this Thursday.