One of the signs of a good team is if it knows how to grind out wins. Football can be a cruel sport sometimes, and the art of grinding out results with backs against the wall is a sign of a potential champion.
A case can now be made for the De La Salle University Lady Archers, after they passed their toughest test yet this season against the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons. In their UAAP Season 78 Women’s Football Tournament clash at the McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig City, the Lady Archers leaned on two wonder goals from Kyla Inquig (6′) and Sara Castañeda (87′) to fend off the valiant Lady Maroons, who deserved a point.
The first half saw La Salle and UP eager to impose themselves over the other team. The two pressed each other and tried to find gaps in the opposite defense to score the first goal. With how both teams were playing, goals were bound to come in this match.
And a goal did arrive as early as the 6th minute. One of La Salle’s strikers, Inquig, dribbled her way towards the UP penalty area and shot just outside the box. That shot of hers landed in the top right corner of the Lady Maroons goal, with goalie Arriane Javier powerless to stop it.
The Lady Archers could have doubled their lead a few minutes later, but Shannon Arthur’s attempt was too tame and Javier easily caught it.
UP, however, didn’t allow their heads to drop after they conceded. The Lady Maroons’ main attacking outlet was their striker Mary Rose Obra. Obra looked to shoot on goal and combine with her teammates throughout the first half as the main striker. Twice she was denied a goal by Lady Archers’ goalie Inna Palacios, who held firm.
Aside from Obra, it was Louise Manalansan who had a go at the La Salle goal, but Palacios was on hand to stop her as well.
It ended 1-0 in favor of La Salle at the half. Nonetheless, the Lady Archers and Lady Maroons teams were very much on equal footing in that period as both teams sought goals. Good goalkeeping from Palacios was what prevented UP from the goal that they deserved.
Come the second half, however, it was UP who upped the ante. The Lady Maroons dominated possession and deserved a goal. Obra, again, was key to UP as she was able to unsettle the La Salle defense multiple times. She should have leveled the scores at the 54th minute, but she shot wide under pressure from a La Salle defender.
The Lady Maroons’ constant attack won them dead ball situations. They won a free kick at the edge of the Lady Archers’ box and Manalansan stepped up again, but her effort went over. Mae Ardiente had a free kick for UP but the La Salle defense cleared the danger. Obra then penetrated the Lady Archers’ defense and won a corner which resulted in a La Salle clearance.
While La Salle had less possession and were pegged back most of the second half, the Lady Archers were still able to make chances via open play. Castañeda had her attempts saved by Javier while winger Chelo Hodges’ attempt was too tame to even test aforementioned goalkeeper properly.
Javier very much prevented La Salle from doubling their lead. She prevented Arthur and Regine Metillo from scoring via routine saves and it took something special to beat her for a second time. That special moment occurred at the 87th minute when Castañeda unleashed a screamer from beyond the UP penalty box which landed in the top corner. The Lady Maroons were stunned as the goal went against the run of play at that moment.
It was a case of too little, too late for the Lady Maroons. They tried to score a consolation goal, but the Lady Archers’ defense held firm. The Lady Maroons deserved at least a point after the match, although the Lady Archers themselves could argue that they were worthy winners of three valuable points. In the end, it was a matter of who scores, wins.
Nevertheless, La Salle head coach Hans-Peter Smit was still unsatisfied after the match. Smit said, “I’m not too happy. Okay fine we got the three points but like I always said for the players, it’s good I’m gonna take the win away but for me as a coach they didn’t play up to par to my instructions. Second goal was my instructions but the defense lost focus, my wingers lost focus so that’s why I just had to time the changes. I knew that once I put the substitutes, something positive is gonna happen because I got fresh legs. What I did in the backline is just to put fresh legs and put more pressure because UP strikers are strong, they’re fast, they know what to do with the ball. My players were a little bit tired. Most of the time I really don’t substitute my defense but in a game like this, you really need to sacrifice something.”
La Salle earned a first round sweep of the eliminations after the match. They have top spot with 12 points. On the other hand, UP are currently in second place with 6 points.