A preview of the UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament finals match perhaps?
In a captivating clash at the McKinley Stadium, the De La Salle University Green Archers got some much-wanted revenge against current champions Far Eastern University Tamaraws 2-1. Greggy Yang and Rigoberto Joseph scored for the Green Archers, while Rico Andes pulled one back for the Tamaraws.
FEU and La Salle engaged in a fierce clash from the first minute. Both teams tried to cancel each other out and create opportunities at the same time. The first chance of the game came from La Salle’s Jed Diamante, when he ran late to the FEU box but failed to hit the ball properly from a drop-down.
On the other end of the pitch, FEU kept probing La Salle’s defense with their front four of Paolo Bugas, Eric Giganto, Andes, and Val Jurao, but returning center-back Nicko Villacin denied them twice.
Giganto then sent shockwaves through the La Salle defense when his shot hit the crossbar. La Salle goalkeeper Paeng De Guzman was then called to action when he had to clear an FEU cross. Yang had a free kick outside the FEU box but his attempt was easily caught by FEU goalkeeper Ray Joyel. Giganto, again, penetrated La Salle’s defense but center-back Noel Brago was in the right place to stop him.
The opening goal finally arrived in the 33rd minute when La Salle were awarded a penalty a minute earlier. Yang had a shot in the box land on the arm of an FEU Tamaraw and the referee halted play for handball. He then stepped up and slotted the ball at the bottom left corner.
With momentum at their side, Jose Montelibano attacked the FEU defense but his shot from outside the box landed far wide. FEU struggled to attack at 0-1 down, and a header from a corner kick by rookie Dave Deloso was their last attempt before halftime. La Salle had a priceless 1-0 advantage going into the second half.
Undeterred, FEU immediately leveled the scores 1-1 at the start of the second half. The Tamaraws won a free kick which was taken by Bugas. Bugas then delivered a great ball in the La Salle penalty box and all Andes needed to do was to guide it inside the net at the 47th minute.
Five minutes later, La Salle captain Gelo Diamante won a free kick outside the FEU box. Yang took the free kick but it went well over the bar. The Tamaraws responded quickly when a long ball from Joyel landed precisely for Giganto, but the latter’s shot only hit the side netting under pressure from Villacin.
Audie Menzi had a great chance at the La Salle end from a corner but his shot was too strong. Minutes later, Nace Gonzalez headed the ball through on goal but Diamante was thwarted by Joyel. Diamante then made a shot outside the box but it hardly scraped the FEU goal. On the other end, Deloso once again headed wide from a corner kick.
La Salle left-back Jhoguev Ybanez committed a costly foul at the left flank with FEU’s Bugas assigned to take the free kick. The Green Archers’ defense held on to clear the ball. Jose Montelibano won a foul near the FEU box but the following free kick was cleared by the Tamaraws.
Free kicks from both sides were taken but all were either cleared out or shot wide. Probably the best chance of the game fell to Giganto. Giganto was through on goal but somehow De Guzman managed to save La Salle. FEU then had a corner and a scramble in the La Salle box ensued, but the Green Archers cleared the danger.
The turning point of the match occurred at the 81st minute. Joseph pounced on the bounce of the ball and his looping header landed in the FEU net with Joyel in no man’s land due to his attempt to stop the former head on.
The Tamaraws had most of the possession after Joseph’s goal. Even if the Green Archers had some half-hearted attempts on goal, it was the Tamaraws who were in search for the fourth goal of the game. Nevertheless, they were only able to muster one decent chance, for which De Guzman was alert to catch the ball.
After the match, La Salle head coach Hans-Peter Smit downplayed their win together with the results against the Ateneo de Manila University and University of the Philippines. “Just like I said earlier it doesn’t really make any difference to me who’s the top four. It’s a new year, a new team. Everything’s new. It’s a new year, new season so let’s just wait and see.” Smit added, “I’m looking at this year differently. The only motivation is what happened last year so that gives us a little push but we’re still not 100%. We still lack somethings.”
When asked what impact he wanted Joseph to deliver, Smit only needed a few words to reply. “Like what you saw.” Smit then said that his boys only needed to stay the same for their next games. “There’s no change. I don’t need to do anything differently. Let’s just see because the first round, obviously the first round you just meet the teams for the first time. So you just need to adjust after. Second round we’ll see because it’s not just us who’ll do the adjustments but the other teams also. We’ll just see how far it just goes.”
The result gave La Salle their third win this season, which sees them with 10 points and a tentative first place at the current elimination round table.
On the other hand, FEU had to make do with their first loss this season. The Tamaraws now have 5 points with one win, two draws, and one defeat. They still retain their place in the top four after this weekend’s games.
La Salle shall face the University of the East in their next game on February 28, 2016 (4:00PM, Sunday) at the McKinley Hill Stadium, while FEU will go against a resurgent University of Santo Tomas a day earlier at the same time and venue.