It’s Red vs. Green for the championship!
The NCAA men’s football powerhouse San Beda College Red Booters needed a late goal from Mike Riconalia to subdue the deposed champions Arellano University, 1-0, Thursday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
The Mendiola squad are on the cusp of capturing a record-breaking 22nd title. Currently, San Beda are tied with the De La Salle University Green Booters at the top with 21 championships apiece.
It was an tight battle at the opening of the first half, as both teams ground it out on their respective attacks. Moreoever, the high press of the Red Lions continued to pile on the woes for the defending champions to connect on offense.
Before the first half came to a halt, the Legarda kickers rallied for a goal, but the center-back defense of Wally Magtoto denied the hopes of the Chiefs to draw first blood.
Frustrated by the physicality of the game, Arellano assistant coach Judy Saluria was ejected in the game after continuously complaining a non-call.
At the early minutes of the second half, prolific scorer Stephen Abriol led the offensive attack for Nhiboy Pedimonte’s squad, piercing through the Chiefs’ defensive line.
The consistent attack of the Red Booters paid off, as Mike Riconilla connected a header on a corner kick from Jerome Marzan, which translated to a goal that gave San Beda a 1-0 advantage in the 81st minute.
The reigning champions tried to mount a late comeback attempt, but the red shirts did well to hold off the former to seal the win.
“Lahat ng concentration namin ngayon is naka-focus sa CSB. Kung may game na inaantay talaga namin is yung game talaga sa Tuesday,” said San Beda head coach Nieboy Pedimonte.
“So ang tingin ko, labanan na siya ng will kung sino gustong manalo eh. Lahat na ng practical naibato na. So nasa players na kung paano nila gustong manalo.”
However, San Beda needs to go through La Salle’s sister school College of Saint Benilde to break the all-time NCAA record in football crowns.
In the second match, the College of Saint Benilde Blazers came from behind against the Lyceum Pirates, 2-1, to set up a title showdown with the Red Booters this Tuesday.
Renz Joseph Tulayba took advantage of a goal-mouth scramble to finish a nifty corner kick in the 85th minute to clinch the win for the Blazers.
It hadn’t been a dream start, however, for the second seeds, as Lyceum once more took the early lead thanks to a lovely finish off James Dorego in the 10th minute.
“Very bad first half,” rued a disappointed Benilde head coach Marlon Maro. “We [fell into] their style of play. That is why my instruction in the dugout [at halftime], ‘We have to play our style, not their style.'”
In the second half, the Blazers heeded to their coach’s game plan.
Executing better on the buildup and on interchanges, the Taft booters plucked an equalizer from substitute forward Carmelo Genco in the 60th minute.
The goal scorer shared that prior to coming into the pitch, he had told himself to “just follow what the coaches told me to do, to follow through and stay in my position.”
The pressure coming from the Blazers was just too much for the Pirates to handle, as the Intramuros booters conceded another set piece opportunity.
The corner kick then set up the winning goal for Tulayba. Lyceum keeper Mellex Andes tried to clear the shot, but the assistant referee adjudged the ball crossed the goal line to the delight of the Blazers and the Benildean crowd.
“We are ready for the Finals,” Maro vowed.
ELIMINATION ROUND ENCOUNTER
During the regular season, San Beda was able to upend Saint Benilde with a score of 4-1. Aljo Paul Zabala, Ralph Estephen Abriol, Neil Dorimon and Mark Den Castillo delivered the decisive goals to help propel the Red Booters.
FINAL FOUR PICTURE
|Saint Benilde Blazers||2-0-0||4||1||+3||6|
|San Beda Red Booters||2-0-0||3||1||+2||6|