The UAAP Football Tournament’s Final Four is less than a month away. As the season progresses, teams battle it out for playoff seats in both men’s and women’s divisions. With most teams still in the hunt, the current UAAP season offers excitement to players and spectators alike.
There are plenty of stories gathered from the eight matches that took place in the previous week. From the narrow 1-0 Ateneo win against UE early Thursday afternoon to the highly compelling 1-1 draw between rivals La Salle and Ateneo last Sunday afternoon, we compiled five interesting stories from the movers and shakers in UAAP football.
Out but not down: UE, Adamson vow to fight until the end
The UE Red Warriors and the Adamson Soaring Falcons are officially out of title contention. The two teams have been struggling to find form throughout the season. Despite displaying admirable grit and determination in challenging their opponents, they both failed to bag the results needed to stake their claim for the crown.
UE, in seventh place, has played better in the second round. They inflicted damage to NU’s Final Four chase with a 1-1 draw while also impressively competing with Ateneo and UST even if they lost to both of them. UE head coach Ryan Marinay is hopeful that his boys will continue to play good football. “Ipapakita namin ang best namin kasi pride ‘yun eh–pride ng school. Kailangan maglaro ng maayos,” he added.
Adamson’s return to UAAP football may not look pleasing if people will only go about the team’s record. The Soaring Falcons, consisting of young players relatively new to the competition, stood firm in their first four games where they lost by only an average of 1.25 goals per game. For a squad filled with newcomers, that number is quite impressive. However, they seemed to have lost footing in their last five games. In that period, the losing margin swelled to five, lifting the season average to 3.77. The challenge coach Nolan Manito has for his team until the season ends is to reduce the number of goals conceded by his team. Maybe in doing so, they may even find a way of crafting a shock result in their favor, given that they scored a total of seven goals in six of their nine games.
Both teams will face three title contenders before squaring off against each other to cap off their respective UAAP campaigns.
Gold Rush: Anotado targets Top Scorer plum
After leading his team to victory by scoring another goal, Steven Anotado declared his plan of bagging the UAAP Men’s Football Tournament Golden Boot. Currently, the striker in black, gold, and white has nine goals to his name, level with Jinggoy Valmayor of UP and a goal behind league-leading scorer and FEU Captain Eric Ben Giganto.
“Iyan [Golden Boot] nga ‘yung hinahabol ko. Kaya pa naman habulin,” said Anotado who also admitted that he feels less fulfilled whenever he fails to net a goal for his team. His coach Marjo Allado also heaped praise on the forward. “Nag-iimprove siya. Mas maganda naka-goal siya kanina [game against UE] para masanay na siya every game,” he commented.
The UST Tigers are in sixth place at the moment and are looking to join the hunt for a spot in the Final Four. They are only five points adrift of fourth-placed FEU, but have played a game more. Still, it offers a chance to Anotado and company to re-enter the playoffs. For them to get there, Anotado believes he has to work hard and communicate well with teammates. “Siguro mahihirapan akong maka-goal sa kanila [UP, FEU Ateneo, and NU]. Gagawin ko ang lahat,” he stated. Scoring against those four teams is a challenge Anotado relishes. Out of his nine goals, six of them came against UE and Adamson. He hopes that he will be able to do his job properly as a striker in the coming games so that they will qualify for the Final Four.
Gonzales unhappy with ugly win against NU
For the second time this season, a second half goal from Jinggoy Valmayor lifted UP to a narrow 1-0 win versus NU. It was an important victory that saw them regain their position as the league’s best team, at least on paper.
On the contrary, it was UP coach Anto Gonzales who expressed disappointment with how his players fared against the Bulldogs. It is a rare but logical reaction to a triumph, especially against fellow contenders. “I just think they wanted to get the result. They really didn’t want to play football,” he remarked. Although he was pleased with how the players took charge in the midfield, he strongly believes that they did not play good football. “That’s not how it’s supposed to be if they really want to be in the Finals,” he said.
Nevertheless, he thinks that the back-to-back men’s football titlists of Seasons 73 and 74 will rediscover their brilliance on the pitch in time when they clash with FEU this Thursday. “Alam naman nila kapag masama ang game nila. They’re always eager to recover, as long as alam naman nila ang mga kailangan nilang iimprove. Go back to training and put more effort,” the UP mentor ended.
Winnable draws not enough for Ateneo ladies
The Ateneo Women’s Football Team remained undefeated in the second round of the UAAP Season 77 Women’s Football Tournament. However, they were not able to win even one of those two games. Thus, they now stare at the likelihood of missing the Finals, somewhere they came close to reaching in the two previous seasons.
Last week, the team battled La Salle to a highly competitive goalless draw. It was a fairly contested match but Ateneo asserted dominance in the closing stages of the game. Unfortunately for them, the La Salle defense defended resolutely under the leadership of Inna Palacios in the goal. A week later, they came to their home turf at Moro Lorenzo Football Field knowing that anything less than a win would spell a strong likelihood of missing out on the Finals yet again. They welcomed neighbors UP by going ahead 1-0 at halftime thanks to Nona Amoncio’s go-ahead strike. Sadly for them, they were not able to hold on to the lead. A late equalizer from Lady Maroon Kali Navea-Huff dashed their championship ambitions.
“Compared to the FEU game [where they lost], they’re more tactically prepared now. It’s just that, maybe, they got too excited about the situation and too tense,” Ateneo coach Bob Manlulo assessed. According to him, the Ateneans mostly spent time in the middle of the park which prevented more opportunities from arriving. He conceded that he has a young team at his disposal, meaning that the players are not totally immune from losing concentration.
The only chance for Ateneo to enter the Finals is by winning their last two games against FEU and UST alongside UP losing all their games and La Salle losing their match against UST by a certain number of goals. A win by UP next weekend, when Ateneo is on bye, or a draw between FEU and UP and a La Salle win versus UST already knocks Ateneo out of the running without their even kicking a ball. Regardless, Manlulo is confident that it won’t change his team’s approach. “We still aim high to finish strong, to get two wins before we end the season,” he confidently uttered.
Beat them if you can: La Salle’s unbeaten streak extends to 10
The De La Salle Men’s Football Team kept their undefeated run alive, a streak now spanning 10 games, following an intense 1-1 stalemate with rivals Ateneo. It was rookie Yoshiharu Koizumi who leveled the score for the Lasallians after Julian Roxas of Ateneo drew first blood. It marked the fourth time La Salle equalized to spare themselves from dropping all three points. They recovered thrice before, twice versus FEU and once against UP.
Speaking after the game against Ateneo, DLSU captain Gio Diamante lauded his teammates in keeping composure despite falling behind Ateneo in the early stages of the second half. “I’m actually proud of my teammates. We really did well when we were down. We really fought for the ball and thank God we actually got the equalizer.” In addition, he honestly reckoned that they could have even won the match but were not fortunate enough to have done so.
The unbeaten streak now reaches double figures and Diamante said that it helps in boosting their morale as the season progresses. Echoing the sentiment of his teammates and the rest of the Lasallian community, he is hopeful that the team will be able to stay undefeated until the end. “We’re really confident that we’re going to get to the Finals this year,” the experienced midfielder said. They will face UE and Adamson before battling UP and NU to end the elimination round.