Two action-packed matches featuring the four best teams in the men’s division of UAAP Season 77 took place last Sunday. It was a marvelous double header that did not disappoint the crowd, which nearly filled the grandstand section of the iconic Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. In case you missed it, La Salle and FEU forged a showdown for the crown as they score a late breakthrough goal each to eliminate their rivals, Ateneo and UP respectively.
While everyone who has watched the matches knew what went down from kick off up to the final whistle, the stories as told by the players and the coaches have not been fully known. That’s why we allocate this week’s round up to make sense of what they have stated after their games. Instead of the usual five, we offer you one each from the four semifinalist teams.
Paredes and Marcelino bid “up and down” UAAP stints goodbye
Winger Emmanuel Paredes and defender Wilson Marcelino played their last game for Ateneo in the 1-0 loss to La Salle this Sunday. The two players came to the hill in Season 73 as rookies of the rebuilding Ateneo squad. Throughout their stay in Loyola Heights, the duo experienced the best and the worst of UAAP football.
In their first year, Marcelino was sidelined after tearing his ACL, while Paredes described the debut year as the worst, record-wise. After a fifth place finish in their second year, they lifted the UAAP trophy in the first year the Final Four format was utilized. “That team was actually built for the future, but I guess it was built for the present at that time because we won,” revealed Paredes of the 2013 championship team. Unfortunately, academic issues kept out some of the key players in the following year. The difficulty of coping with the losses resulted in the team finishing in last place again. Nonetheless, Ateneo worked hard to get themselves into the semifinals picture again, where they have ended the season at fourth. “More rookies, more individual talent, and gelled better than last year,” thought Marcelino of the glaring differences.
For 87 minutes, the young Ateneo XI challenged the league’s oldest team, and with that they can’t ask for more. “I told the boys before the game na anything can happen. Win or lose, dapat pagkatapos ng game [we’ll have] no regrets,” recalled Paredes, who had the opportunity of serving his team as captain in place of the suspended Mikko Mabanag. Center back Marcelino added, “We gave it our all. Everyone gave their best efforts.” Indeed, the Ateneans fought hard, but La Salle emerged as the better team when the referee’s final whistle sounded.
Change in mindset bears fruit for hungry La Salle squad
At the time Gelo Diamante started playing for La Salle, UAAP football applied the Final Four format as it was the year when the men’s division expanded to seven teams, thanks to NU’s participation. A regular in the league’s top four since 2009, La Salle’s chances of winning a championship improved as the new format sets up the best four teams duking it out for a spot in the Finals, compared to only the top two heading straight to the championship game in years prior. Since then, DLSU got stuck at fourth place with tough semis losses to eventual champions Ateneo and FEU.
The difference maker in La Salle’s semifinal win over Ateneo attributes their stellar performance this season to a change in perspective, putting football as the players’ main priority aside from academics. It required a lot of sacrifice, which rewarded them a place in the final. “We gave our everything. Tama lang na nanalo kami. We played well talaga,” he claimed as his team dominated but had a tough time in making the most out of their chances prior to the winning goal. In addition, he expressed the fulfillment he felt to have defeated archrivals Ateneo in an intense rivalry match, especially as he thought that his team’s opponents gave them a good fight.
Now in the championship game, for the first time since the semis format was applied, La Salle will aim to dethrone champions FEU, the other team that dealt heartache in recent times. Last year, DLSU got eliminated in the semis with a late Dexter Chio goal that made the score 2-1 in favor of the Tamaraws. Last season’s sad memories may well be replaced with happy ones should they score more than FEU this Sunday.
FEU goalkeeping shuffle pays off against UP
The FEU Tamaraws decided to summon Michael Menzi in between the posts with the hopes of muting the ferocious UP front line that composed of Jinggoy Valmayor, Daniel Gadia, and Michael Simms among others. It was an unforeseen event, but not a surprising one, as M. Menzi was the number one keeper of FEU’s 2013-14 championship team
During the elimination round, RJ Joyel and Patrick Rallos split the goalkeeping chore. In the two games they played the Maroons, the Tams went with the two keepers. Joyel marshalled the net in the 3-1 loss, while Rallos played the goalkeeping role slightly more in the following encounter. An injury meant that Joyel continued his teammate’s spell as the team’s last man. Despite making good saves, he was outdone by a Valmayor free kick that prevented FEU from taking all three points. In their third meeting with UP, the Tams decided to bring back the elder Menzi brothers in the position he was stationed at a season ago. He was effective as his timing and positioning often deterred UP’s charges.
FEU Assistant Coach, Dexter Chio revealed that the decision to bring M. Menzi back in goal emanated from the immense desire to win. With a clean sheet in his lone game as a goalkeeper, M. Menzi may be the favorite to play ahead of Joyel and Tallow this coming Sunday, but in football nothing is certain. Regardless of whom among them will play, everyone in gold and green needs to be prepared for the title-deciding match.
Valmayor weighs in on UP football journey
Jinggoy Valmayor ended his UAAP career in the 1-0 extra time loss to FEU last Sunday. Unlike in the other games against the Tamaraws this season, Valmayor was not able to find the back of the net, but his dedication was evident in the match, where he led the team on the attack. Realizing the conclusion of his college football career, the graduating striker gave his take on the only season his team did not reach the finals throughout his stay in Diliman.
“Sobrang proud ako na nag-iba ako,” said the former LSGH striker as he pointed out the fact that he never got any cards this season. It is one of the signs that he has become more mature after learning from last year’s costly mistake of missing the finals due to a two-game suspension he got in the semis match against UST. His improved demeanor did not curtail his aggressiveness in scoring goals, as he netted 15 goals in the same number of games he played in Season 77. Most of those even came against fellow contenders. Without that sizeable chunk of goals, UP may even find themselves out of the semis picture. The vitality of his presence, awareness, and skill up front may be overstated, but his contributions are simply valuable. “I can say that I’m one of the best strikers sa [history of] UP,” he proclaims. Looking at this season alone, it’s hard to disagree with that.
Now that he’s done representing UP on the pitch, the Maroons’ renowned scorer will don the similar color tone with Pachanga Diliman FC in the United Football League (UFL). Nonetheless, he’d still be around the team, open to helping them as much as possible. “Sinabi ko sa kanila na hindi ko sila iiwan. Kahit hindi na ako part ng team, tutulong pa rin ako,” the proficient striker promised.
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