Two rounds of the thrilling UAAP Season 77 Men’s Football Tournament took place in the last seven days, bridging the conclusion of the first round and the commencement of the second round. A total of eight matches were staged within the week, all of which carried weight in the chase for the coveted Final Four slots.
Presenting the second of the two-part booster pack of FULL TIME- here are the stories that made it:
Golden boot not the priority for Giganto
FEU’s leading scorer Eric Ben Giganto made it clear after last Thursday’s loss to UP that he cares less about the top individual goal scoring award.
The fourth year FEU striker has already found the back of the net eight times, the most a player has scored this season. Two other players have the same tally as him after UP’s Jinggoy Valmayor and UST’s Steven Anotado scored the goals to match Giganto’s haul.
Airing his side on the topic, Giganto does not want that to get into his head. “[Scoring more goals] does not matter to me as long as I play well,” he shared. What does matter to the FEU man is his performance and the outcome of each game. “As long as manalo ‘yung team, ginagawa ‘yung part ko as a striker, binibigay ko ‘yung best ko, wala sa akin ‘yun [record],” he stated.
NU point fingers at woeful officiating in draw
Coach Wilhelm Laranas had plenty to say to the referees after being held to a 1-1 draw by UE last Saturday. The NU gaffer frowned upon the calls, especially those that made his team play with a one-man disadvantage.
“Referee!” was the first word Laranas uttered in his post game reaction. “‘Yung referee ‘yung nagpatalo sa amin. May mga calls na mali talaga,” he exclaimed. It appeared like a defeat for the Bulldogs who were leading but were held even at the end after going a man down. He acknowledged that red cards slapped on Elgen Antipolo and Marole Bungay may have been deserved but he strongly argued that UE deserved more dismissals than what they acquired in the game.
Meanwhile, he defended his decision to rest key players like Paolo Salenga and Francis Abalunan, who both began the game on the bench. “Kayang laruin ‘yung game kahit wala sila. We can win the game without them. Nakascore pa rin kahit wala sila,” he stressed. What put them off their game was playing the second half a man down. The NU attacking duo played a short part of the game after being introduced as a response to UE’s equalizer courtesy of Regil Galaura.
Ateneo continues to flourish with set pieces
Eleven out of the 15 goals netted by Ateneo so far this season came from set pieces, with two of the 11 enough to earn them a draw against an in-form UP team. Set pieces include free kicks- whether direct or indirect, corner kicks, and penalty shots. Ateneo midfielder and designated free kick taker Mikko Mabanag shed light on his team’s fluency in dead ball situations and how the team is working towards improving their goal tally from open play.
Mabanag revealed that Ateneo’s success in set pieces has been modeled after the fluency of top professional teams in it. “[Scoring from] set pieces has become a vital part of our team and it is a translation of what we train for.” They scored eight times from free kicks- one of them directly from the spot, twice in corner kick situations, and once from the penalty spot.
It is not all well and good for Mabanag and company for their ability to complete set pieces highlights their reliance on them. They found the net only 27% (4/15) of the time in open play, one of them being an own goal which came against UST. “It is definitely a concern,” Mabanag admitted. “We practice it almost every training session. In my opinion, we just have to be more creative than sticking to a set of plans,” he continued.
It is already clear that almost every Ateneo set piece has been a goalscoring opportunity. Teams have been working their way around it but have been struggling to deal with it save for two teams that blanked the Ateneans–La Salle and FEU. For third placed Ateneo to succeed this season, a balance in scoring from open play and set pieces may just be the key to a second UAAP trophy in three years.
Super sub strikers save La Salle from dropping points
Christian Zubiri and Chuck Uy both came off the bench to rescue their team from getting unfavorable results in games against UST and FEU this week. The first year striker headed La Salle into a thrilling 2-1 win versus UST just when it appeared that both teams were bound to share points. Three days later, it was the turn of the Davaoeño Uy whose chipped effort earned his team an important draw late in the game against FEU.
Zubiri felt immense happiness after his heroic effort to bag all points for La Salle. “It feels awesome. Finally, I got my goal,” he delightfully expressed. The rookie missed two late chances to win games, one each against FEU and Ateneo in the first round so he was relieved to have successfully converted this time against UST, which happens to be his first goal of the season too.
Uy, on the other hand, is no stranger to scoring goals off the bench in the league. Currently, the third year forward has scored thrice this season. Without Uy’s goals, La Salle may have been closer to sixth-placed UST than first-placed UP in the standings. According to him, a substitute is vital in swinging the game in favor of his team. His goal scored against the Tamaraws extended their unbeaten run to eight games.
However, Uy emphasized that staying unbeaten is not the main objective- entering the championship duel is. “The team wants to get into the finals. We’ve been one step close to the finals but managed to lose it far too many times already,” he uttered. In support, Zubiri commented, “it (unbeaten streak) should reflect on how we should do in the future.” Through their contributions, Zubiri and Uy have spared DLSU from targeting a second round turnaround just to make the playoffs, something the team has done repeatedly in recent seasons.
UST keen to roar back into the Final Four
“May chance pa naman humabol. Hindi pa tapos ang lahat.” These were the words of UST coach Marjo Allado after his players flexed their muscles by whipping Adamson, 4-1.
In the loss to La Salle earlier in the week, he pointed out the lack of experience, a problem which the teams above them in the standings don’t seem to have. This was supported by Gino Clariño. The player who has been captaining the Tigers for the majority of their campaign said, “Kulang talaga. Maraming kulang sa amin.” He cited that the team has shortages in experience, fitness, and willingness to win. A few days after, Allado noticed an increase in the players’ hunger for good results. “‘Yung desire ng mga bata manalo nandito pa rin.”
Time is not a friend for UST at the moment but Allado is hopeful that his players can weather the second round and vastly improve. “Forget about the first round. One [game] at a time lang,” he added. The Tigers face an acid test when they play La Salle just exactly a week after the same team dealt them their fifth loss of the season. It marks UST’s first game against the Top Five. Then they are set to go up against struggling but unwavering UE before going into a tough four-game schedule in the last three weeks of the elimination round against the other title contenders.