The De La Salle University Green Archers are back in the top four of the standings, after surviving a crucial and heated matchup with the National University Bulldogs that resulted in a 2-1 victory for the booters from Taft Avenue, Wednesday afternoon at the FEU Diliman football field.
Following a couple of botched attacks from both sides in the opening minutes, La Salle’s first near-hit came at the fourth minute care of Jose Montelibano, who had a good look on the goal after getting enough space from just inside the penalty box. The ball however landed in the hands of NU goalie Hayeson Pepito. NU’s first shot on goal came three minutes later at the seventh minute, when Marole Bungay took advantage of a lapse in the Bulldogs’ defense to free himself up to strike from just inside the penalty box, but the ball was stopped in its tracks by La Salle goalie Raphael de Guzman.
Top playmaker Nathan Alquiros had the chance to draw first blood for his squad two minutes later, escaping the Bulldogs’ defense just around the flank to strike from long range, but the ball went wide.
It was Gerald Layumas who broke the cold spell at the 16th minute, connecting with a corner kick helmed by Alquiros to head the ball into the net.
Paolo Salenga got the chance to equalize at the 19th minute, taking a free kick from just a little beyond the penalty box. Though he managed to send the ball flying past the La Salle wall, it landed safely in the hands of goalie De Guzman. Salenga once again came close to scoring one for the Bulldogs at the 23rd minute, freeing himself up from the clutter in the penalty box to receive a pass from the left flank with a bicycle kick that sent the ball flying past the La Salle keeper and into the net. The Archers’ celebrations however were cut short, after the linesman ruled the shot as having been taken while Salenga was offside.
Charleston Uy doubled the La Salle tally at the 30th minute, sneaking past the NU defense to corral the low cross from Gerald Layumas from the left wing, nudging the ball into the net before Pepito could react.
The remaining minutes of the first half saw the Bulldogs continue to attack the goal on every opportunity, but found themselves unable get anything past La Salle goalie De Guzman. Bungay had the best attempt of the first half for NU at the 36th minute, escaping the NU defenders to take an easy strike from the top right corner, but the ball was blocked by De Guzman. At halftime, the score stood at 2-0.
The start of the second half saw both go all out on the offensive. Charleston Uy came close to scoring his second goal of the game at the 50th minute, guiding a cross sent by Gelo Diamante toward the goal with a header, but the ball was quickly blocked by the NU goalie.
Two minutes later, the Bulldogs came close to digging their own grave, when defender Eddie Alivio and goalie Pepito miscommunicated. Alivio passed the ball to an unaware Pepito. The back pass that was intended for Pepito led to the ball coming within inches of the goal line, before sailing past the post just as the NU goalie realized their mistake.
The next ten minutes saw the Bulldogs come close to finally getting their campaign going, but ultimately failing to bag their much sought after first goal. Lawrence Colina at the 53rd minute had a good look from long range that led to an easy strike from beyond the penalty box, but the ball was stopped by the La Salle keeper. Three minutes later, Bungay found himself with possession of the ball at point-blank range, and though he managed to fling the ball in the direction of the goal, it instead ended up bouncing off the top bar.
Uy had the chance to extend the La Salle tally at the 56th minute, taking advantage of a lull in the NU defense, stealing the ball right under the NU backs’ noses and cutting into the penalty box and one-on-one with the goalie, but the ball was stopped in its tracks by NU keeper Pepito.
The NU attackers only continued to find themselves bothered by the La Salle defenders, and later finding each one of their shots either stopped by the La Salle keeper or going wide. The 76th minute saw a turn for the worse for the Bulldogs, after Elgen Antipolo, one of their most effective offensive personnel was slapped with his second yellow card of the game for contesting a previous yellow card slapped on teammate Darwin Regala for delaying the game. Antipolo was immediately sent off the field.
The last ten minutes saw the Bulldogs continue to meet futility on every attack. Around the 84th minute, Paolo Salenga had the open look on the goal, after corralling previous botched shot with the La Salle goalie out of position. Salenga however was unable to control the strength of his shot, sending the ball wide over the bar instead of nodding in towards the net.
At the 90th minute, it appeared Archers were due to walk away with the clean sheet. However, just as injury time was announced, Salenga, the leading scorer for the Bulldogs was tripped by La Salle’s Ramon Antonio Bonoan inside the penalty area, giving him the opportunity to at least add a goal to the Bulldogs’ name.
It was the La Salle goalie however who continued his display of heroics, blocking the kick by Salenga. The La Sallians’ celebration however, was cut short, when the referee called for a replay of the shot. Though Salenga this time managed to send the ball into the net, it was the Bulldogs’ celebrations this time that were cut short, as another retake of the shot was announced. Salenga once again bagged the goal, and this time the referee held his peace. Seconds later however, it was the Archers who walked off the field celebrating.
“Good thing we got two goals in the first half,” said La Salle head coach Hans Smit. According to Smit, their two goals in the first half helped establish momentum for them and helped them play more comfortably in the second half. He however emphasized that the Archers had too many missed opportunities in the second half.
“Lapses in decision-making. Pangit ang passes, laging intercepted,” said NU coach Wilhelm Laranas when asked about the Bulldogs’ mistakes in the game.