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Tiebreaker Times

Injury-plagued La Salle shuts down UST to stay unbeaten

The De La Salle Green Archers are still unbeaten in the UAAP Season 77 men’s football tournament, following a narrow 1-0 victory over the University of Santo Tomas Golden Booters Thursday afternoon at the FEU Diliman football field.

Care of Jean Mari Clarino, UST established their presence around the perimeter of the penalty area, paving the way for a series of early UST attempts. The fifth minute ejection of La Salle’s Jhoguev Ybañez after being given a red card for trying to throw a punch gave the Tigers more space to create. But it was the Archers instead who bagged the first goal of the game, when Christian Zubiri headed in a high cross sent by Nate Alquiros from the left wing.

The next twenty minutes of play saw UST finally maneuver to exploit the hole in La Salle’s defense. Clarino came close to equalizing for UST at the 19th minute, after winning the ball in the struggle in front of the net and striking from just a few feet away from the ball. However, it was stopped by La Salle goalie Rafael de Guzman. Two minutes later, leading UST scorer Steven Anotado had a chance to equalize with a shot from inside the penalty box, but the ball ended up sailing above the bar.

The arrival of Jose Montelibano, who was subbed in for Zubiri at the 29th minute paved the way for a renewed La Salle offensive push. Montelibano almost extended La Salle’s lead at the 33th minute after connecting with a cross from Nate Alquiros with a header just by the right post, but the ball went straight to the hands of UST goalie John Rey Catalino. The final fifteen minutes of the half saw La Salle get a couple more good looks, but all shots ended up getting stopped or going wide. UST’s Jopridale Molino had the last great shot of the first half, rebounding a blocked header by teammate Anotado to strike from point blank range, but the shot was knocked off course by La Salle’s Matthew Nierras, who immediately cleared the ball off the pitch. At the half, the narrow lead stayed with La Salle.

Though they struggled to get their offense going early in the second half, the Tigers finally found a way inside of the penalty box, with Dexter John Benecio getting a good look to strike from just inside the box. The ball however sailed way over the bar. It was Efren Menares’ turn to try to equalize just two minutes later at the 57th minute, charging through the right wing and beating the defenders to receive the through pass from Anotado. Though Menares was immediately able to nudge the ball into the direction of the net, Paeng managed to scrambled in time to scoop the ball up before it could cross the line.

The 63rd minute marked a drastic change in the complexion of the game. A red card due to card accumulation sent Clarino, one of the Tigers’ most threatening presences at the top of the field, off the pitch. With UST also now down to ten men, the Archers’ counterattack kicked to life, and the last thirty or so minutes saw La Salle dominate offensively. At the 66th minute, Montelibano had the first of many near-hits in the late second half, sending a powerful shot from just beyond the penalty box that went way past the post.

Montelibano, along with Karlo Miguel Villamor and Gerald Layumas spearheaded the late La Salle flurry that broke down the Tigers’ previously effective back. The three had no trouble breaking into the the penalty area to get the good look on the goal, but struggled to get anything past the wide reach of UST goalie Catalino. As the 90th minute approached, the flurry kicked into sixth gear, but none of their shots found the net. The last great shot of the game came from Villamor, who at the 89th minute found himself with enough space and the open look from the right wing, but celebration was withheld when the shot went drifting inches from the opposite post.

Assistant coach Alvin Ocampo was happy about the much-needed three points and his players stepping up late in the game, but expressed his displeasure with the early red card that sent Ybañez off the field. “Not good for the team. We had to make adjustments five minutes into the game. Very crucial ang first five minutes, especially in this game.” Head coach Hans Smit, who was absent from the sidelines for the Archers’ past few games, makes his return on Sunday against Ateneo. Smit was attending to his responsibilities as match commissioner for the Philippine Football Federation-Smart National Cup Championship.

“Overall, parang wala talaga kaming napakita ngayon. Everybody’s off,” said UST coach Marjo Allado, who once again emphasized his team’s lack of experience. Still, he is hopeful that the team will regain form in their upcoming game against UE on Sunday.

The Archers however have to deal with the problem of injured players. Rookie Zubiri, who scored the lone goal of the game, was subbed out around thirty minutes into the first half after spraining his ankle. Already on La Salle’s injury list are Gelo Diamante and Chuck Uy, who scored crucial goals in La Salle’s past few matchups.

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