In sports, at the end of the day, someone has to lose . For the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, defeat in the Final Four of the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Football Tournament put an unsatisfactory end to their campaign.
As defending champions, Anto Gonzales’ men were completely determined to successfully defend their title for the first time since Season 74. In their path were a young De La Salle University side, composed of 13 neophytes and nine holdovers from the previous year.
However, the Fighting Maroons succumbed to a 1-2 defeat after an intense 90-minute contest with the Green Archers. They are now left to rue what could have been had they been tighter at the back and more clinical up front.
“We gave it away, to be honest.
“Credit to La Salle also for really hanging in there. I mean, after they scored the first goal, I thought we controlled the rest of the first half. We got the equalizer but they held on. They got their chance and they took advantage of it. We started the second half very flat, and I think that gave La Salle an opportunity to get their bearings back, get their confidence back,” said Gonzales.
La Salle defended valiantly after all throughout the game, notwithstanding UP captain Kintaro Miyagi’s goal. They marked star winger JB Borlongan tightly; green and white shirts surrounded him every time he had the ball at his feet.
“It’s just frustrating kasi we fell short. We were from top two but we lost. This season, nagtrabaho naman kami pero hindi lang talaga namin nakuha nung semis.
“Maybe it’s because of the (lack of) desire. Kulang yung desire namin to score talaga. Nakita sa game na hindi talaga na-convert yung chances. We really had more chances than La Salle, but they were the ones who took the most out of the chances,” added the youth national team head coach.
This has been a challenging season for UP, in truth.
Players such as Miyagi have played through injury to push the team, while its campaign was disrupted due to the school’s decision to release players for international duty.
“I think everything is still under control. Those injuries, (other) players should just be stepping up. We should be prepared for that. With regards to the national team players, I think they were still motivated, very motivated even if they had the heavy load already. We take this game is it is,” assured Gonzales.
“We just have to move on and take responsibility for the misgivings that we had in this game, and move forward.”
With their season prematurely done and dusted, UP stayed to watch the first half of the other semifinal duel between Ateneo and FEU. It seemed as if watching the game was some form of torture for them, but sports inevitably gives you setbacks that you must try to overcome.
“Balikan lang yung smallest details – yung pahinga, tamang kain, tapos tamang trabaho na lang talaga inside the field,” noted Borlongan on the biggest lessons for his team.
There will always be next year, and Gonzales looks to steer UP towards another glorious season.
“We always have high expectations for ourselves, playing a style of football that is attacking, disciplined, well-organized, so we’ll have the same targets for next season.”