Camille Rodriguez provided a goal and an assist to lead the Ateneo Lady Booters to a rewarding 3-1 win against the already Finals-bound FEU Lady Tamaraws Saturday afternoon at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field.
Desperately needing a win, Ateneo looked to score as soon as possible to ease pressure on them. Their relentless offense yielded several set pieces throughout the first half, but FEU goalkeeper Shermae Ramos alertly dealt with dangerous shots from the Ateneans. Similarly, the Tamaraws too had a couple of free kicks that almost resulted in a breakthrough goal only for Ateneo goalie Kitkat Montelibano to intercept on time. In open play, Ateneo produced better chances. 39 minutes in, Nona Amoncio found Rodriguez whose shot was blocked by Lou Amita. Both defenses held to reach halftime goalless.
In the second half, Ateneo seized control as they created more opportunities. Rodriguez had two shots saved by Ramos but the junior midfielder was too much for the Lady Tams to stop. Hannah Demetillo fouled Rodriguez inside the box, giving the referee no choice but to award the spotkick to Ateneo. Rodriguez took it and made no mistake to put her team ahead at the 57th minute.
An exchange of near chances ensued after the score change but it was the Ateneans who found the net once more four minutes after the hour mark. Aina Martin located Amoncio who headed the ball past Ramos. Moments later, Joy Chavez entered the game to replace Ramos in goal.
Ateneo’s lead was reduced at the 69th minute when Sharmine Siaotong was left alone before carefully squeezing one past Montelibano, threatening Ateneo’s chances of winning the match. The defending champions almost dealt a heartbreaking strike had Roselle Lecera stayed onside, before tapping the ball into the net six minutes before the end of normal time. In the ensuing play, Rodriguez threaded a delicate cross from the left wing, which fell to Captain Cecille Dayrit who secured the points with an 85th minute goal.
Coach Bob Manlulo of Ateneo took the win in high spirits as they offer themselves a chance to make it into the Finals. “The girls wanted to win the game,” he said while following up his delight with the team’s consistent performance, particularly in the attacking third. Rodriguez, who described the win as magnificent, echoed her coach in saying, “We just entered the game wanting to give everything we’ve got. The goal for this game was to just control what we can and what we could control was the effort. It showed that we fought [with] great effort,” she uttered.
In defeat, FEU Coach Let Dimzon shared that everything was done in preparation for the Finals, as she fielded a mix of veterans and inexperienced players. Entering the Finals, Dimzon and the team will work towards sharpening their attack. “Malakas naman ‘yung depensa. Ang nagiging problem lang namin pagdating sa final third ‘yung final pass,” she opened as the reigning champion coach stresses on more attacking come the last dance.
Ateneo now sits at third place with eight points, same with La Salle but owns a better goal difference. FEU, regardless, are in the Finals as the number one seed having played all their games and established a lead big enough not to be surpassed