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Ateneo-La Salle thriller ends in scoreless draw

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Another exciting meeting between archrivals Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University ended in a stalemate, after the second round matchup between the two women’s football teams ended 0-0, Sunday afternoon at the FEU Diliman football field.

The first half saw a low-ball midfield battle between the two squads, with Ateneo coursing their offense through Francesca Abraham in the right wing. It was Camille Rodriguez who had the first opportunity to score in the game, tearing open the La Salle defense to go one-on-one with La Salle keeper Inna Palacios at the 8th minute, but lost control of the ball before she could nudge it into the direction of the net.

La Salle’s offense was then bolstered by Cha Guancia on the left wing and Kyla Inquig and Alexi Arrieta with their free kicks and set pieces, most of which found their way in front of the goal, though none were guided into the net.

Entering the later portion of the first half, the Lady Eagles found some much needed help from Rodriguez, whose clinical finishing kept the La Salle defenders on their toes for most of the first half. She came close to finally nailing one for the Lady Eagles at the 32nd minute, after managing to collect a volley from Paulina Naguiat, but the shot from just inside the penalty area was caught by the La Salle goalie. La Salle’s Nicole Andaya had a chance to score for the green and white later at the 36th minute after finding herself with enough space to strike from the right wing, but the shot was blocked by Ateneo goalie Eva Katherine Montelibano.

Ateneo’s offense was renewed around the 45th minute care of Rodriguez. A nifty low cross to Maria Leah Patricia Cruz came close to producing the game’s first goal, but the point-blank shot ended with the ball whizzing inches past the post. A minute later, Rodriguez found herself one-on-one with the La Salle keeper, after collecting a volley from the midfield. Palacios however kept her composure, and was able to dive in time to catch Rodriguez’s shot. With injury time running out, a corner kick from La Salle’s Regine Metillo brought the ball close enough to the goal to create a chance for her teammates, but Ateneo’s Montelibano managed to react in time to grab the ball before anyone from La Salle could connect.

The second half saw a resurgence in the La Salle offense, with their attackers finally finding a way to get through the Ateneo back. Irish Navaja almost scored one for La Salle with a strike from beyond the box, but the ball was blocked by the Ateneo keeper. Chelo Hodges had a good look at the 74th minute, finding an opening near the top right corner, but the ball landed in Montelibano’s hands.

The La Salle flurry lasted until the 77th minute, when the Lady Eagles shifted their focus on their counterattack. Substitute striker Noelle Antonio had a chance to score for the blue and white, stealing the ball from the La Salle defenders before they could clear it and taking a shot from the right wing, but the ball ended up gliding past the opposite post. Cecille Dayrit had another chance to score for Ateneo three minutes later, collecting the back pass from the chaos in front of the goal and going for the strike from just inside the penalty box. The shot however sailed wide above the bar.

Capitalizing on a lull in the La Salle offense, Ateneo attackers Cruz and Antonio kept pressuring the La Salle back, getting look after look on goal, though all of their shots ended up scudding past the post or in the hands of Palacios.

With the end of regular time approaching, the La Salle defenders pulled together to finally win the ball back from the Ateneans’ counterattack. Stoppage time saw the Ateneans try to mount a couple more attacks, but once again they could not find the net. At the end of stoppage time, the score was still 0-0.

“I think sayang lang kasi kulang sa composure, but maybe it was because it was an Ateneo-La Salle game,” said Ateneo head coach Robert Manulo after the game. Coach Manulo was unhappy about his teams’ 5-6 missed shots in the late second half but praised his team’s effort, especially their defense.

“Our decision making was a bit off compared to our previous game. The new field and heat got to us, but that’s not an excuse, ” said La Salle goalkeeper and captain Palacios when asked about her team’s performance. “But for every mistake, we make sure to bounce back.”

With the draw, neither team moves in the standings, La Salle in third and Ateneo in fourth. The Lady Eagles defeated the Lady Archers 2-0 in their previous meeting in the first round.

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