What a start to the UAAP Season 78 Women’s Football Tournament.
Archrivals De La Salle Lady Archers and Ateneo Lady Eagles squared off in a thrilling season opener.
The first half was a game of attacking football. Both the Lady Eagles and the Lady Archers made it a point to attack the opposition goal at every opportunity. It was the Lady Eagles who came close to scoring the first goal, with two successive chances that were blocked in the Lady Archers’ box. The Lady Archers responded via a shot from blue-chip rookie Sara Castañeda at the 12th minute.
ADMU had a free kick just outside DLSU’s box, but the Lady Archers’ captain Inna Palacios was alert to deny the Lady Eagles. Castañeda again threatened the Lady Eagles’ goal but her shot was easily saved by their goalkeeper Mariane Caparros.
The breakthrough came in the 21st minute. DLSU’s Kyla Inquig scored from the top of the ADMU penalty area to give the Lady Archers a 1-0 lead.
Undeterred, the Lady Eagles responded positively and forced the Lady Archers to concede a penalty. ADMU captain Cam Rodriguez coolly converted into the bottom right corner, far from Palacios’ reach. Bea Velasco then gave the Lady Eagles a precious 2-1 advantage when her strike landed at the top right corner from a counterattack.
Irish Navaja forced a save from Caparros just before the first half ended. The Lady Eagles led 2-1 at halftime. The Lady Archers had a lot to discuss at the break; they’d had more possession but wasted their chances on goal.
Come the second half, it was DLSU who started more aggressively. Shannon Arthur had her attempt saved by a determined Caparros at the 48th minute. Three minutes later, Nicole Andaya’s hard work at the right flank paid off when she forced an own goal from ADMU’s Nina Catedrilia to level the score at 2-2.
Arthur late made up for her missed attempt when she finished from eighteen yards via a one-two pass from Inquig, making it 3-2 for DLSU. The Lady Archers were on the ascent at that point of the game, as ADMU struggled to put the ball in DLSU ‘s box. One of the few moments the Lady Eagles successfully penetrated the DLSU defense led to a save by Palacios.
Momentum was with the Lady Archers throughout the second half and it showed when Castañeda made a solo run only for her shot to be parried away by Caparros. It resulted from a corner which was just cleared off the line by the Lady Eagles.
But as with football, there’s a sucker punch waiting to happen. The Lady Archers were coasting in attack when they lost the ball in central midfield. It resulted in a defensive mix-up upon which Rodriguez took advantage of to equalize (3-3) at the 85th minute. A few minutes later, Julia Sucgang and the rest of the Lady Eagles were denied a 4-3 lead via a Palacios save.
When it seemed like the game would end in a draw, Castañeda proved that fourth time’s the charm. Deep into stoppage time, Castañeda scored via a one-touch from a cross at the right flank to win the game for DLSU. It is perhaps fitting that Castañeda clinched the final goal, having been the best player from both teams.
It was a huge win for the Lady Archers, and it might prove to be a catalyst for a potential run at the championship.
At the end of the game, DLSU coach Hans-Peter Smit admitted that his Lady Archers could have played better. Smit added that he felt his seniors should have been more relaxed, while he praised the rookies’ composure. “That definitely is a character-boosting attack. If they just keep on doing that in the UAAP then I couldn’t see any reason why we can’t reach the finals.”
The Lady Archers will next face the defending champions, the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws on Feb 13, while the Lady Eagles will face the University of Santo Tomas Lady Booters on Feb 20.