Just when it looked like it was not going to be their day, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws found a way to return to the top of the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Football Tournament standings.
Courtesy of substitute Jermi Darapan’s breakaway goal, the Tamaraws secured a 1-0 win over the University of the East Red Warriors, Sunday afternoon, at their Diliman campus.
The result means FEU are the top team in the standings ahead of the Holy Week break with 24 points. The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles sit below them with 23 points.
“(The players) were in it mentally. They were trying to do the plays (that) we were doing in training. However, maybe because of the heat, the firmness and the quality of the touches and passes were a bit off,” said FEU assistant coach Albert Besa.
The Red Warriors started on the front foot, as the Tamaraws lacked their usual incisiveness in the final third. UE veteran Bon Opeña was a thorn in the FEU backline’s side, and he forced goalie Dave Parac to make two fine saves in the first half.
Both teams were on even footing upon the game’s resumption, as both had good chances to break the deadlock. Opeña first had another set-piece saved; then, Poi Saldivar tested UE goalie Frank Rieza with a fine effort.
Perhaps what set FEU apart was the Tamaraws’ winning mindset. UE were deep in the Tamaraws’ half when a counterattack allowed Darapan to break the lines. He shot past Rieza in the 79th minute.
Darapan’s goal was a huge psychological blow for the Red Warriors, who fought tooth and nail for every possession. Still, UE tried to salvage a point from the game and Fitch Arboleda’s men bombarded the FEU defense.
Forward Mar Diano saw an opening to shoot late in the game, but Parac caught his shot. Mason Vergara then headed wide with the goal at his mercy. A UE set-piece in stoppage time saw the ball hit the crossbar, while Hanz Arboleda had a rebound attempt that Parac easily caught.
Besa added, “It was tight. It could have gone either way. I think some of our slips almost gave UE some chances to go ahead.”
When the tournament resumes after the Holy Week break, UE (8 points) shall play the Adamson University on April 25, 2019, 3:30 PM. Meanwhile, FEU (24 points) face the University of the Philippines on April 28, 2019, 3:30 PM. FEU-Diliman will host both games.
UE XI: Arboleda C, Arboleda F, Bagsic, Carandang, Diano, Malayo, Opeña, Polinag (C), Rieza (GK), Saldivar, Vergara.
FEU XI: Bacara, Canonigo, Decena, Forrosuelo, Frigillano, Kim, Mendoza, Parac (GK), Rayos, Saldivar ©, Salilig.