In their penultimate game of the UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament elimination phase, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons defeated the National University Bulldogs, 1-0, last night (April 10, 2016) at the McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig. Fighting Maroons captain Daniel Gadia turned in the match-winner at the 77th minute when he converted the penalty which was awarded because of a handball inside the Bulldogs’ box.
The result was UP’s fifth straight win in the second round. The Fighting Maroons now stand at 1st place with 27 points. On the other hand, this was the third straight fixture which NU failed to win. That winless run left Bulldogs at 6th place with 16 points, 5 below current 4th placed team Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles.
It was a close game between UP and NU, not in terms of chances, but with how the two teams nullified each other. In the first half, the midfielders of both squads tried to play their forwards through at every moment, only for each backline to easily repel attack after attack. UP goalkeeper Ace Villanueva easily caught NU skipper Paolo Salenga’s free kick, while at the other end, rookie Kyle Magdato struck wide for the Fighting Maroons.
Dead ball situations then became the best way for both teams to unlock each others’ defenses. Marole Bungay had his free kick cleared. Meanwhile, Patxi Santos delivered a good ball in the NU box which has headed by Ian Clarino, but saved by Bulldogs goalkeeper Chris Perocho.
Perhaps the best chance of NU arrived when Nico Macapal received the ball in the midst of a counterattack, only for him to shoot narrowly wide. It was NU who arguably played better in that period and they could have finally scored if only Patrick Valenzuela latched better the cross which came his way. An impasse was reach at halftime as UP and NU very much canceled each other out.
Come the second half, it was UP who looked sharper between the two teams. Perocho successfully with two quality free kicks by Clarino and Santos with routine stops in succession and he also denied JB Borlongan with a fine save. NU responded, but not well enough. The Bulldogs were pegged back by the Fighting Maroons’ bombardment and only Salenga had a sniff of goal when his tame header was easily caught by Villanueva.
At the 76th minute was when all hell broke loose. UP had a set-piece and NU defender Eddie Alivio was adjudged to have handled the ball inside his team’s box. It was another defensive lapse for NU which was common throughout their season. Alivio got sent off for his troubles and Gadia stepped up to take the penalty. Gadia made no mistake and directed the ball towards the bottom right corner at the 77th minute.
Even after the goal, the Fighting Maroons were still in control of the match. With a man down, the Bulldogs struggled to transition from defense to attack. In fact it was only Lawrence Colina who tried to test Villanueva with a shot, yet the latter was relatively unharmed. Gadia and Ryan Fermin could have added UP’s advantage before fulltime, but both failed to do so with their attempts. In the end, UP held on for an important, 1-0, win against NU.
Despite the win, UP head coach Anto Gonzales was still somewhat disappointed with his wards, particularly with how the Fighting Maroons failed to hold the ball well in the dying moments of the match. “We won but I’m not too happy with how we ended the game again. We really have to learn how to control the game especially in the end, lalo na lamang kami. Paulit-ulit sinasabi sa kanila, ‘Keep the ball. You don’t need to rush it. You don’t need to make those through balls kung aagaw lang din. Keep possession. Kill the momentum of the opponent.’ They have to learn.”
UP will resume their campaign after eleven days against Far Eastern University on April 21, 2016 (Thursday; 2:00PM) at the Moro Lorenzo Field in the Ateneo de Manila University campus. On the other hand, NU will play a week earlier in the 4:00PM kickoff at the same venue against the University of Santo Tomas.