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Tiebreaker Times

Obra scores brace as UP upends UST 3-1 to book finals slot

The final stage has been set. The University of the Philippines Lady Maroons recovered from an early deficit with three goals in the first half to outlast the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigresses to take home the 3-1 victory and the women’s football finals ticket, Sunday afternoon at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field in the Ateneo de Manila University campus.

UP entered the first half with superb wing play, coursing their offense through Kali Navea-Huff. She came close to drawing first blood two minutes into the half, powering her way through the right wing to strike just inside the box, but her shot was easily stopped in its tracks by UST goalie Zipporah Luna.

By the 10th minute, UST had found a way to stymie UP’s dangerous wingers, building up their counterattack to take control of the midfield. Around the 11th minute, Hazel Lustan almost scored for the Tigresses, powering her way into the center of box and launching a powerful shot that UP goalie Nicole Adlawan barely managed to stop. The Tigresses’ counterattack eventually bore fruit six minutes later, when Jae Marie Abuan found herself with enough space in the left wing and sent a cross to Pearl Aguilar, who gracefully headed the ball past the keeper and into the net, giving UST the 1-0 lead.

The 17th minute goal however proved to be the Tigresses’ lone moment of glory in the half. The Lady Maroons scrambled to organize their midfield anew, and four minutes later, they found themselves with something to celebrate about. At the 21st minute, a shot by Mary Obra that was parried away by the UST goalie was left in play with no one to collect it. UST’s Abuan however caught up in time to get a tap on the ball, but lost control and instead nudged it into the direction of the open net. With 21 minutes gone by, the score was tied at a goal apiece.

Three minutes later, Obra shined for the Lady Maroons once again, maneuvering her way in the left wing and beating the defender to launch another mean shot from way out that sent the ball gliding above the keeper and into the top of the net. All of a sudden, the Lady Maroons found themselves on top, 2-1, 24 minutes into the half. UP’s renewed attack resulted in more success, as eleven minutes later, Obra found herself in the spotlight once more. She powered her way through the midfield after receiving a through pass from Monica Malansan to strike from the center of the penalty box, but the UST goalie was unable to react in time. She sent the ball into the net to extend the Lady Maroons’ lead to 3-1. Later in the half, Christille Mae Ardiente had the chance to score from a couple of set pieces helmed by Kali Navea-Huff, but all her shots went wide. At halftime, UP led 3-1.

Scrambling to get out of the two-goal hole, the Tigresses resorted to aggressive low ball early in the second half to get the ball to the top of the field. However, they struggled to get any good looks, with UP’s defenders covering every inch of the box. UST’s attackers adjusted by taking long shots from around the perimeter of the box, but were unable to find the net.

The Lady Maroons on the other hand maintained their composure with their midfield organized, while keeping their own offense and the threat of an extended lead alive. UP’s dominance on the wing almost bore another goal at the 68th minute, when Kali Navea-Huff connected with a short cross by Cristina de los Reyes via a mean header, but UST goalie Luna reacted in time to stop the ball. At the 81st minute, Obra had the chance to complete the hat-trick with a powerful strike from the left wing, but her shot sailed wide above the bar.

With just ten minutes on the clock, the Lady Maroons focused on stifling the Tigresses’ passing, denying them any more easy shots. At the final whistle, it was the Lady Maroons celebrating on the pitch.

“Big improvement from our last game. Maganda ‘yung rebound mentality ng players noong naka-goal ang UST. They bounced back very well,” said UP head coach Anto Gonzales when asked about his team’s performance in today’s game. “The midfield played fantastic today. Winning and defending balls, they didn’t let the midfielders of UST settle.” Coach Gonzales also praised his players’ constant improvement throughout the season.

Meanwhile, UST head coach Judal Sorito said that his team was still eyeing a second runner up placing, a feat they could achieve should they defeat Ateneo in their game next week.

UP will be meeting Far Eastern University in the finals, which is slated to kick-off early in March.

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