Needing a victory to keep them in step of the leaders, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons carved out a lone goal at the 24th minute off Niño Muros and registered their second consecutive win, Thursday at the Ateneo Moro Lorenzo Field.
The match started pretty much open for both sides as either teams had their attacking opportunities. It was the season hosts, however, who had been more enterprising in their movements to the attacking third. The Red Warriors attack was repeated foiled with offside calls. UP notched the first clear chance on a go-ahead goal, but the free kick of Patxi Santos went straight to the hands of UE keeper Lendon Clores.
Nevertheless, the Maroons’ constant pressure was finally rewarded as they found Muros unmarked inside the box. The fifth-year holding midfielder attracted Clores to the right side of the goal, and calmly slotted the ball to the other side for the goal. Kintaro Miyagi threatened to double the lead at the 33rd minute, only for Louie Polinag timely dealt with his hard cut into the edge of the penalty area. The Maroons had another opportunity three minutes later, but Miyagi plucked a foul in the sequence. The half ended with neither team presenting a clear chance and UP went into the break with the slim 1-0 lead.
At the start of the second half, UP continued their movements into the UE’s final third, but their passing was too risky. The white-shirts tried to be aggressive, but the Warriors were there to deny them. In the 60th minute, UE proved dangerous and almost got an equalizer off Bon Opeña, if not for UP goalie Ace Villanueva’s able hands.
Both teams tried to push the ball forward, but the Maroons gained the upper hand and the Warriors were left scouring on the defense. The aggressiveness of both teams showed at the dying minutes as UP and UE both went down to 10 men, with JB Borlongan and Jrv Malayo were sent out for their respective teams.
With a few minutes left in the contest, Clores this time stopped the two consecutive attempts from the Maroons off set pieces. The full-time whistle was blown and the Maroons walked away with this win.
Expectedly, UP Head Coach Anto Gonzales was barely satisfied with the result. “Performance-wise, this is far for being our best game,” he said. The long-time mentor feels that the team was over-worked on training as they even trained the previous day. Gonzales also shared that they worked on their movement on the attack during the break, but it was only evident in Borlongan’s case.
The Maroons will face the Adamson Falcons at 8pm on Sunday at the McKinley Hill Stadium, while the Warriors will tackle the defending champions FEU Tamaraws earlier that day at 3pm.