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Tiebreaker Times

FULL TIME: Top 5 UAAP Season 77 Football Stories of the week

Only two matches took place this week as the UAAP gave way for Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines. Despite the shortage of games, UAAP football fans were treated to a spectacular double-header that pitted four out of the five teams strongly in title contention.

We know the results, so let’s get to know more about their impacts on the teams moving forward.

It’s all about performance for Bugas, FEU

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The Far Eastern University Tamaraws picked up their second straight win courtesy of a 2-0 win against Ateneo last Wednesday afternoon. This sets up a mouth-watering game between FEU and UP on Thursday. Heading into the marquee clash, both teams recovered from their lone defeat by recording two wins.

According to FEU’s Paolo Bugas, winning two games that amounted to an aggregate 11-1 scoreline after losing their last game of 2014 is a good sign, yet what matters more is how they play each game. Goal difference also is not the main incentive the Tamaraws are after as Bugas expounded, “Wala kaming pakialam diyan [goal difference] kasi importante sa amin ‘yung performance talaga.”

Only a superior goal difference keeps UP ahead of FEU, meaning the Tamaraws must win to overtake the Maroons and recapture first place at the end of the first round.

Mabanag thinks young Eagles need mental toughness

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Mikko Mabanag pinpoints mental preparation, or the lack of it, to have cost Ateneo the game against FEU last week.The Blue Booters Captain played through groin and ankle injuries in their last two matches where they disappointingly took just one of the six points up for grabs.

“You have to go to every game with high spirits. Kung pababayaan mong mabagsak lang kayo, it’s going to affect everyone,” quipped Mabanag. They slid to fourth after the loss but only two points adrift first place. Thankfully for Mabanag and company, time is far from running out just yet. He went further saying, “we’re a young team and being young means that you have a lot of time for growth. Our team is bonded properly… We’re going to be competing.”

Ateneo will return to action on Wednesday against another young team in Adamson. Winless since their back-to-back wins against UST and UP last year, the Blue Booters hope they can take home their first three points of 2015. “Atenista kami, hindi kami magpapatalo,” the skipper proudly uttered.

Finishing a major issue for both Smit and Laranas

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The first game of last Wednesday afternoon’s double-header featured NU and DLSU. The game finished 2-1 in favor of La Salle but both teams’ mentors believe their players could have made it a shootout. La Salle’s two goals came inside the opening half hour of the match whilst NU’s was courtesy of a late penalty awarded to the Bulldogs, which was virtually the last kick of the game.

Smit was pleased that the early goals allowed his team to play with momentum but still expressed dismay in converting attempts to goals. It would have made the Lasallians more comfortable in the game. As for NU Head Coach Wilhelm Laranas, he may have understood that some of the chances surprised even his strikers, but that doesn’t open room for error in scoring goals especially in a tightly contested game. “Doon lang sumasablay–sa finishing. ‘Yun lang ‘yung medyo off pa kami,” he declared.

The second round encounter between La Salle and NU offers intriguing perspectives from both sides. Their approach to that match would undoubtedly be influenced by their situation en route to the playoffs. Whether that results in a thrilling goalfest or a one-sided match, the protagonists only seek one thing: higher accuracy in front of goal.

La Salle stands as league’s only undefeated squad

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Following Ateneo’s 2-0 loss to FEU, La Salle is the only team in UAAP men’s football that has yet to drop three points after playing six games. It is an unusual but welcome start for a team that regularly struggles in the early stages of previous seasons.

The Taft XI avoided defeat to perennial suspects UP, FEU, and Ateneo whom have all drawn with the Lasallians this season. DLSU Coach Hans Smit credits his team’s effectiveness in neutralizing the opponents’ main threats. Against Ateneo, Smit’s lads impressed their coach with how they handled the midfield battle. The same can be said against NU, whose forwards had difficulty in creating openings and executing properly whenever a chance comes along.

On Thursday, a DLSU win against sixth-placed UST, another team which also won against them in last year’s first round, will assure them at least second place going into the second round.

Playoff race heats up as first half of season concludes

Right now, all teams remain in the hunt for four playoff berths and rounding up the first round would paint us half of what is in store this season. In contention for first place after round 1 are UP, FEU, La Salle and Ateneo. The top four teams are separated by just two points with half of them battling each other for league leadership. Fifth seeded NU Bulldogs are not far behind with just a point less than Ateneo in fourth whilst bottom three teams UST, UE, and Adamson are still mathematically in the running. However, the trailing trio of teams need to double their efforts to not only lose more points as they target to move towards the playoff places.



The winner between UP and FEU will definitely take first place while a draw presents a chance to either one of La Salle and Ateneo or both to claim first spot at the end of first round. NU’s best case scenario is to move up to third, which would require a win against UE, a win by UST against La Salle and a draw between Adamson and Ateneo. Wins by teams in sixth to eighth places would stir an exciting Final Four race as it will reduce the gap between second and sixth to just four points. Should the bottom three lose, meanwhile, it will only make their pursuit of booking a playoff spot more difficult for it would separate fifth to sixth by seven points. None of them would even have that much points in seven games should all of them lose this midweek.

There are still a lot of games left in the season but every game is as important as the other. Each win solidifies their Final Four aspirations while each loss deflates it. For the incumbent, to get favourable results will lessen the likelihood of depending on other results come the closing stages of the season. As for teams outside the Top Four, enough time remains to make a second round surge. Urgency is required because they cannot afford to lose more points or it would likely spell elimination to this season’s title race.

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