Without Jarvey Gayoso, Julian Roxas, and Jeremiah Rocha, defending champion Ateneo still found a way to escape defeat.
The Blue Eagles earned a 1-1 draw to kickstart their title defense in the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Football Tournament against University of the Philippines, Thursday at Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
A clumsy tackle by UP defender Ray Sanciangco on Ateneo striker Luca Alleje inside the Fighting Maroons’ box provided light at the end of the tunnel for the Blue Eagles after they conceded a goal early in the second half. Midfielder Nino Herrera stepped up for Jay Pee Merida’s men, then converted the spot-kick in the 83rd minute.
“Of course, ang challenge for this [is] ano ‘yung magiging approach ng mga player ko? Can they step up talaga (kasi) marami nawala from last year?” said Ateneo coach Merida. “Nakikita ko ‘yung boys na they pushed themselves to give their best sa game na ‘yun.”
The result allows the two squads to commence their elimination round campaign with a point each.
Ateneo almost got all three points at the end of the game when Mark Nacional was through on goal. A magnificent last-ditch tackle from UP’s Marc Tobias, though, ensured that both schools ended up sharing the spoils.
All this came after the strong start from Anto Gonzales’ men.
Rookie winger Francis Tacardon had a dream debut in the collegiate league with his 56th minute strike. He evaded the tight marking from the Ateneo defenders, handing State U the lead after an impressive first half yielded no goals.
“I thought we dictated the game very well but we lacked movement upfront. We didn’t translate our possession into a lot of scoring opportunities,” said UP mentor Gonzales.
The two schools shall both return on the pitch on Sunday, March 8 at the same venue. Ateneo faces off against University of Santo Tomas at 1:30 PM. Meanwhile UP goes up against National University afterward at 6:30 PM.