In a battle of two teams hungry for a win, the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles emerged victorious over the University of the Philippines Tigresses, 2-1, Saturday afternoon at the McKinley Hill Stadium. Veterans Nona Amoncio and Camille Rodriguez provided the much-needed goals to wipe out Jennizel Cabalan’s second half strike.
The Tigresses began the game on the front foot. The partnership of Charisa Lemoran and Hazel Lustan piled pressure on the Ateneo backline in the first 14 minutes of the game. Together, they forced Ateneo goalkeeper Mariane Caparros into action at the 12th minute. Lustan played a one-two-pass to Lemoran, who returned the ball to her. Despite being afforded space, Lustan was unable to breach Ateneo’s goal.
After absorbing early pressure from UST, the Ateneans took their turn. Paulina Naguiat produced the first good chance for Ateneo. Her attempt struck a Tigress, arguably on the arm. Nonetheless, the referee saw nothing wrong and waved play on. They may have not earned a a spot kick, but it galvanized the Lady Eagles. At the midway point of the first half, Bea Velasco scuffed a shot wide from a Nina Catedrilla pass. Moments later, Rodriguez tried her luck twice from distance to no avail.
Towards the latter stages of the opening half, the two teams exchanged opportunities on goal. The best chance came from Darryl Mendoza a minute before the break. The midfielder was set up by Cabalan but couldn’t test Caparros, who was alert to stop her tame effort. At the half, it remained scoreless.
As much as the girls from España controlled the start of the first half, the Lady Eagles opened the second half with intensity. Although unable to create a clear chance in the first 15 minutes of the closing period, Ateneo forced UST to play behind the ball. It proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Tigresses, who broke the deadlock at the 66th minute. Against the run of play, UST’s Cabalan gained possession in a dangerous area. The substitute striker weaved past her marker to give UST the lead. She nearly made it two-nil six minutes, after but her shot from a free kick sailed over everyone.
It was a costly miss, as Ateneo controlled the last 15 minutes of the match. The Lady Eagles’ surge commenced when Aina Martin capped a nice sequence. The captain shot the ball narrowly over UST goalkeeper Nicole Reyes. Her attempt was followed by unsuccessful tries from Bea Velasco and Tessa Bernardo. In the midst of those attacks, the Atenean defense stood firm against a couple of UST counterattacks. At the 79th minute, Caparros handled a strong shot from Lemoran to keep Ateneo in the match.
Caparros’ teammates underscored her effort by scoring at the other end four minutes from time. Amoncio made space for her to fire a well-drilled shot into the bottom corner. Time was about to expire and the equalizer seemed enough for Ateneo and UST to share points on the day. A costly mistake by Reyes, however, gifted Rodriguez with the ball and an empty net to put it into at the penultimate minute of the game. Soon after, the final whistle sounded to confirm Ateneo’s first win of the season.
Ateneo Head Coach Bob Manlulo hailed his players for fighting until the end. Refusing to get carried away, the Lady Eagles’ tactician hopes it will be a starting point towards a positive direction. “This should be a good motivation for them to keep on improving,” Manlulo stated. Regarding the nature of the victory, he conceded that luck may have simply been on their side. he inferred.
The Lady Eagles will look to use the win as a springboard for a victorious run. Their next shot at glory comes against the University of the Philippines come next week. Meanwhile, UST will have time to regroup. They will meet Far Eastern University in two weeks time.