The De La Salle Green Archers head coach Hans-Peter Smit was visibly disappointed with his players after the match and replied, “Not at all. Not at all” emphatically when asked if he was happy with his players. “They played lousy”
The Green Archers may have won the match, 1-0, courtesy of a Gelo Diamante goal, but there was an air of disappointment about their performance. The same can’t be said for their counterparts, the University of the East Red Warriors, who not only frustrated their heavily-favored, opponents but also had chances of their own to win for the first time in this UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament.
La Salle may have had more chances in the first half but it hadn’t been a vintage performance from the Green Archers. It was as if frustration crept in their game quite early and they rushed to score from the first minute of the match.
One of their sources of frustration was UE goalkeeper Lendon Clores, who did his job with limited fuss. Clores made an easy save from La Salle left-back Gerald Layumas, and was alert to prevent an early Gelo Diamante goal when he caught Nace Gonzales’s free kick. The Green Archers had another chance courtesy of Jojo Borromeo but UE defender Jrv Malayo blocked it.
The Red Warriors were initially more composed than their counterparts in the first half. What prevented them from a first goal this season was their impotence in front of goal. Bon Opena dribbled his way in the La Salle half and passed the ball to Mar Diano but the latter’s attempt went slightly over the Green Archers’ goal.
Opena again threatened the Green Archers when the ball landed luckily fell to him, but his shot was easily caught by La Salle goalkeeper Paeng De Guzman. Kent Galaura then had an attempt on the La Salle goal but his header looped over the crossbar.
But the Green Archers improved after the UE bombardment. Their passing was much better and they were changing play from one side of the pitch to the other. Patience also returned to their game, like when good build-up play allowed rookie Javier Romero-Salas to run through towards the UE goal but the Red Warriors’ defense thwarted him.
Aside from Romero-Salas, Yoshiharu Koizumi was given his first start to the season. Koizumi’s appearance was very much a cameo, but a good one nonetheless when he outsmarted UE defender Alberto Echin Jr to cross the ball towards Gelo Diamante, who sidefooted the ball into the Red Warriors’ net in the 36th minute. The Green Archers looked relieved that they finally got the goal their persistence earned.
Gonzales and Gelo Diamante had chances to double La Salle’s lead but the UE defense, especially Clores, remained firm. On the other hand, Diano had a free kick that failed to test De Guzman, while Mallen’s shot was easily saved. It ended 1-0 in favor of La Salle at halftime, but the Red Warriors weren’t too disappointed with their performance.
Come the second half, it was a more aggressive UE that showed up against La Salle. Jeffrey Lacsamana displayed the Red Warriors’ eagerness to equalize early but his shot was just too strong. Rookie Mark Lerion joined in the fray but he directed his effort harmlessly wide.
Two consecutive free kicks were awarded to the Red Warriors. Opena stepped up for both, but De Guzman parried the two attempts away for the La Salle defense to clear. Perhaps Opena should have scored UE’s first goal of the season but he squandered his shot after La Salle’s defense compressed on him.
In order to stifle UE’s surge, Smit shuffled his players and told them to play in a 4-4-2 formation. Gonzales narrowly missed the UE goal after Greggy Yang set him up. Jed Diamante delivered a corner leater in the match but Rigo Joseph only headed it wide. The best chance for the Green Archers to double their lead came from Nicko Villacin, but he blasted his attempt wide after the lay-off by Cristian Zubiri.
It was a mixture of luck and bad finishing that allowed La Salle to take all three points, when a Lacsamana pass to Diano was finished by the latter in a tame way and saved by De Guzman. In the end, the Green Archers took home all three points, while the Red Warriors can only lament all the opportunities they failed to convert.
Smit was exasperated with his players after the match. He said, “I just put in new players so I could rest the others, system didn’t work. They didn’t want to play… They didn’t really follow instructions besides the last minute changes to change the formation to attack. You see all the chances we had, even the last minute shot of Villacin. It’s all gigil. They’re just too relaxed a bit.”
What pleased Smit was that none of his players got injured, and and that the defense had remained solid. “My defense held up. (Noel) Brago played very well today. If there’s a man of the match, Brago will get it because he stood strong in the backline as a center-back. My plus is also my goalkeeper.”
UE can look back at the game with satisfaction over their valiant play against La Salle. On the other hand, the Green Archers know they have to improve in order to end their championship drought.
La Salle now have thirteen points and returned to top of the standings. UE are still winless this season and stayed at the bottom.
The next game for La Salle is against Adamson University (1:00PM), while UE will face Far Eastern University (3:00PM). Both games will be on March 5, 2016 (Thursday) at the Moro Lorenzo Field in the Ateneo de Manila University.