Alesa Dolino and Ina Araneta’s goals were enough to extend FEU’s reign in UAAP women’s football after dispatching the UP Lady Maroons, 2-1, earlier this afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
The champions took control right at the get-go. Siaotong almost completed a quick, well-orchestrated attacking sequence, but her attempt sailed over the goal just inside the first minute. FEU, then, had three set piece opportunities, but were not able to find any players in green, allowing UP to deal with it easily. At the ninth minute, Barbie Sobredo aimed to set up teammates inside the box, but her long ball was gathered by UP goalkeeper, Nicole Adlawan.
Barely gaining possession in the opening ten minutes, UP started to threaten 13 minutes after kick off. Mary Obra moved around the FEU defense in order to position herself well for a shot that was saved by FEU goalkeeper, Sheramae Ramos. A minute later, the sophomore striker almost took advantage of the Lady Tams’ poor reception of Kali Navea-Huff’s cross. Unfortunately for the Maroons, Dolino got there in time to steer the ball away from danger.
FEU, then, moved swiftly to cause problems in UP’s defending third. Thankfully for UP, Molly Manalansan denied Araneta and Charmaine Fagaragan entry into the box, while also recovering the ball. Her second tackle led to a UP attack in the 17th minute when K. Huff unsuccessfully connected with Obra, whose touch to the ball was not what she was hoping for. A minute after, Delos Reyes and K. Huff had attempts to break the deadlock. The Season 77 Rookie of the Year’s shot was halted, and the rebound fell to the second year winger, whose shot went wide.
The crowd was left awed and stunned 22 minutes into the game with Dolino launching a rocket of a goal. From long way out, she was able to whip a shot on target that caught almost everyone off guard. Adlawan managed to palm it away, but her reaction was not enough to keep the ball from going in, putting FEU ahead, 1-0, midway into the first half. Araneta acted to cushion the slender lead, but a couple of her attempts were not enough to change the score.
On the other side of the pitch, Obra was nicely set up thrice to work her way past FEU’s defenders, but the young forward failed to unlock the formidable Lady Tams’ defense on three occasions. The Lady Maroons had the fair share in the last ten minutes, but the defending champions created better chances in the said period. Araneta blasted her attempt off a counter attack over, while Fagaragan saw her shot corralled. At halftime, the Lady Tamaraws held a narrow one-goal lead.
Just like in the opening stages of the first half, FEU aggressively looked for options up front. Bridgette Kadil’s attempt was off-target a minute after the restart. The pressure got to UP, and at the 52nd minute mark, they gave away a penalty. Miscommunication between Manalansan and Adlawan invited the Lady Tams’ to swarm inside the UP box. In the midst of clearing the ball from danger, Manalansan was adjudged to have handled the ball leading to a penalty to FEU. Sobredo stepped up to take it, but struck the woodwork, keeping the Lady Maroons’ deficit at one. UP gained momentum afterwards, but could not find ways in dismantling FEU’s defense as their corners fizzled out.
At the 66th minute, Dolino lifted the ball over a sea of people into a spot just near Adlawan’s six-yard box. Mistakenly thinking that Araneta was offside, the UP defense did not react to meet the ball. Pouncing on the ball, the FEU forward used her head to chip the ball over Adlawan and into the net to double her team’s lead. The women in green, then, defended well to keep the Lady Maroons from pulling one back with a good amount of time still on the clock. Manalansan, Obra, and Delos Reyes all had their chances, but not one shot gained UP a much needed goal.
With time against them, UP seemed to stare at the possibility of losing the battle. Their perseverance, however, bore fruit in the end when the referee awarded UP a penalty in stoppage time. M. Huff sent Ramos the wrong way to earn a consolation goal for the Lady Maroons, who ended the game as second best to the much-experienced FEU Lady Tamaraws.
“Iyong attacking namin talang pinagpraktisan namin,” stated FEU Coach Let Dimzon, who cited that part of game as unsatisfactory early in the season. Facing UP, the champions studied carefully UP’s strengths and weaknesses, which they eventually limited and exposed accordingly. The mentor also lauded the seniors who gave nothing but their best since day one. “Nagpapasalamat ako sa kanila, sa contributions nila para sa team. All heart sila kapag naglalaro.”
Despite the unfavorable outcome, UP Coach Anto Gonzales is proud of what the players have shown in the game. “I thought this was our best game against FEU this season,” he assessed, but lacked the ability to punish FEU in scoring and giving too much room for the opponents to score.
As the season ended, the players who stood out throughout the season were given due recognition. DLSU’s Inna Palacios and Chelo Hodges took home the Best Goalkeeper and Rookie of the Year awards, while also given the Fair Play Award as a team. UP’s Cristina Delos Reyes was acknowledged as the league’s top midfielder, and Alesa Dolino claimed the Best Forward award, which she shared with Ateneo’s Camille Rodriguez, UP’s Mary Obra and Delos Reyes. That was not the only award that belonged to Dolino, who was also rated as the best defender and crowned the Most Valuable Player of the Season.