What a dramatic game. What a point. There is something about the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers this season, and they showed it once again against the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons. The Growling Tigers earned a valuable point after they drew, 3-3, at the expense of the Fighting Maroons in their UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament clash at the McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig City.
It was the first fixture of both teams in the second round, and it was a goal-fest. Darwin Busmion (25‘ & 29′) and Jayson Rafol (88′) scored for UST, while JP Borlongan (3′), Rafael Patangan (16′) and Daniel Gadia (71′) did so for UP.
To say the first half of the match was eventful would be an understatement. It was definitely much more than that, as all of a sudden, both UST and UP became what they were not. Out of the blue, defensive solidity went out the window and the two teams conceded goals they would usually have cleared.
Perhaps it was the fact that both teams were missing important players. UP were without goalkeeper Ace Villanueva because of an injury, while Ian Clarino sat out, having been red carded in their last game. On the other hand, UST lacked the services of midfielders Dionisio Busmion Jr. and Ronald Batisla-Ong due to their suspensions.
However, the Fighting Maroons began like they didn’t miss Villanueva and Clarino. They enjoyed a blistering start as Borlongan hit the side netting almost right after the whistle blew. Borlongan, though, immediately made amends and gave UP the lead in the 3rd minute of the match. The goal came when Gadia penetrated the UST defense and passed the ball towards Borlongan, who finished clinically.
UP were rampant. Rookie Christian Lapas and Gadia bossed the midfield, with UST helpless in the absence of Dionisio Busmion and Batisla-Ong. The Fighting Maroons were so relentless that they could have had led by five or six goals before they finally scored their second. Striker Carlos Monfort might have scored twice in succession if it hadn’t been for the heroics of UST goalkeeper Zaldy Abraham. Patxi Santos had a volley caught by Abraham while moments later, Patangan had a glaring miss from a Gadia cross.
Tonight’s game against UP wasn’t the best fixture for Abraham, and the warning signs were there early in the first half. Abraham’s defenders spared his blushes after they successfully cleared the ball after shots from Borlongan and Monfort.
Nonetheless, a second UP goal was inevitable and it came at the 16th minute of the match. Rvin Resuma had an attempt at the UST goal that was parried by Abraham, but the ball fell to the waiting legs of Patangan, who then tapped the ball into the back of the net. That should have been game, set, and match, but UST had other plans.
Due to UP’s continuous hold of the ball and pressing, UST had no other choice but to use long balls from defense and attack to bypass midfield. The plan worked like a charm. Aj Pasion should have asked more of the UP defense when he was able to lob a long ball directed to him over UP goalkeeper Anton Yared, but Santos prevented the goal. That should have been a lesson for UP, but they didn’t heed it. Out of nowhere, the Growling Tigers were able to pull one back.
A long ball from the UST defense landed near Jake Bricenio, who then crossed the ball towards Darwin Busmion, who made no mistake in scoring at the 25th minute. UST were elated, as a goal hadn’t looked like it had been coming. Four minutes later, though, came something astounding. Jopri Molino received another long ball, and he crossed it towards Darwin Busmion, who levelled the score in the 29th minute with a clinical finish.
The Fighting Maroons were stunned. They had bossed the match, and yet conceded two goals in four minutes. Monfort, Santos and Borlongan had attempts on the UST goal before halftime, but the score was tied, 2-2, at the break. UP were seething at their implosion, while UST were definitely relieved to be tied.
Unsurprisingly, the Fighting Maroons maintained control of possession in the second half. Gadia had a shot eleven minutes after the restart but he failed to score. Santos could have then scored from a free kick that was spilled by Abraham but the latter successfully recovered. The second half was more stop-and-start than the previous period because of some minor scuffles that broke out. Thankfully it didn’t amount to anything more than that.
In the 71st minute, UP finally got the third goal they deserved. Gadia played more as a striker in the second half, and he finally got his first goal of the season. He was able to turn and conjure a shot which crept into the UST goal after an uncharacteristic error from Abraham. The goalkeeper had been having a less-than-stellar game, and it came as no surprise that Gadia was allowed to score with how the match was panning out.
But then there was a sting in the tail. With momentum at UP’s side, UST coach Marjo Allado shuffled his system and players to save a point. His tactical acumen paid off when Darwin Busmion ran through the right flank and crossed it across goal. Substitute Rafol was unmarked, and he kept his composure to equalize in the 88th minute. The Growling Tigers and their supporters went wild, as the players ran to the crowd to celebrate a priceless point. Both teams, especially the Fighting Maroons, were stunned by what happened. It ended 3-3 after ninety minutes, and no doubt one team was happier than the other.
As expected, coach Marjo Allado and his counterpart, UP head coach Anto Gonzales, had contrasting opinions after the match. Allado said, “Sa first twenty minutes we were sleeping eh but the boys again they showed puso. Hindi sila nag give up.” Gonzales, though, was exasperated and felt the result was a loss. “Tough, tough loss. We conceded some easy goals. Dumating yung goals namin pero yung backline ang naging problema. It’s really a tough loss.”
The result gave UST a provisional lead at the top of the standings with 18 points. On the other hand, UP had 12 points and are stuck at 4th place in the standings. The next games for UST and UP are to be held on March, 19, 2016 at the McKinley Hill Stadium in Taguig. UST will face the Far Eastern University, while UP will go against league leaders De La Salle University.