In a game that had more red cards than goals, nine-man NU was held by 10-man UE, 1-1, Saturday night at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field. The Bulldogs led at halftime courtesy of Jericho Dagsa but failed to keep the lead by conceding a goal to Regil Kent Galaura en route to a stalemate.
It was an evenly fought affair throughout the match but NU looked to have the better chances in the first 10 minutes of the game. Just when the game was starting to heat up on the field, tempers flared among Elgen Antipolo, Jeffrey Lacsamana, and Rhoyet Sola. Lacsamana was booked while Antipolo and Sola received marching orders. The sending off for each team opened more room as teams faced each other with 10 men.
NU composed most of their chances via set pieces while UE took advantage of their pace in pursuit of a goal. First blood eventually fell to NU when Dagsa flicked in Alberto Frias’ free kick nine minutes before halftime. It looked like it was enough to put NU at an overall advantage but they entered halftime with a setback. Marole Bungay was sent off for a clumsy challenge just before halftime, meaning NU had to play with only nine men come second half.
UE took advantage of having one more man on the field by setting up attacks routinely in the opening stages of the second half. They were rewarded at the 58th minute when Galaura headed in Lacsamana’s cross to level the score. It prompted NU coach Wilhelm Laranas to bring on usual starters Paolo Salenga and Francis Abalunan to the field. The duo tried to find ways to break down UE’s defense but lacked enough time to produce a goal considering UE also had moments on attack. The Red Warriors were led by Jo Mallen and goalkeeper Lendon Clores who played the game as an outfield substitute. He almost scored at the 86th minute only to be denied by the post. With no other chances coming closer than that, the game ended 1-1 and the result was greeted by the opposing teams differently.
For a team like NU, dropping points against a team ranked lower than them at this point in the season may cost them a place in the Final Four. Playing against UE, a team that they recently defeated 3-0 just this Wednesday, the result came as a potential blow to their championship aspirations. Laranas pointed fingers at poor officiating, which he believes is the reason behind the outcome. “Kaya naman laruin kahit wala naman sila [Paolo, Francis, etc.]… Nakascore parin, maganda yung nilaro nila kaso kulang lang kami sa tao,” he added.
For UE, however, the result boosts their confidence moving forward. Assistant coach Shem Bensurto said, “Malaking bagay iyan [draw] ibig sabihin nag st-step-up na ang team. Alam naman natin malakas ang NU. Nag-iba yung laro, kasi mas nagsipag na yung mga bata.”
The draw puts NU in fourth place with 14 points, leapfrogging FEU temporarily as the latter has a game tomorrow against DLSU. Meanwhile, UE stays in seventh with four points, after picking up their first draw of the season.