“Matalo namin ang FEU, malaking karangalan na,” remarked University of the East’s striker Alberto Echin, Jr. after the game.
The junior game-changer came in as a substitute and plucked a goal at the death to shock UAAP Season 77 champions Far Eastern University, 2-1, Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
The Tamaraws started like a well-oiled machine in the match and almost picked up a goal early with a solo effort from Azkals-capped Paolo Bugas at the 10th minute.
Several incursions into the box went FEU’s way, as the Red Warriors had difficulty in creating opportunities, losing the ball cheaply.
“Nung first half, we played poorly. Yung mga passes namin very soft,” UE head coach Fitch Arboleda noted.
After a barrage of chances, the Green and Gold deservedly got the opening goal in the 36th minute. The sophomore Andes was at the right place at the right time, finding an opening in Frank Rieza’s goal, and tapped it into the net.
The Tamaraws had many chances to double the lead, but Rieza stood equal to deny the opportunities before the break.
Nonetheless, it was an entirely different Recto squad that emerged at the resumption of the match. Arboleda shared, “Ang ano ko lang sa kanila, hindi ko na inaano yung winning. Gusto ko lang talaga is maglaro kami ng maayos.”
His squad more than heeded this call, as they started to finally get chances to score. And after several opportunities in the final third, UE got the equalizer.
FEU keeper RJ Joyel was whistled for a foul inside his box, conceding a penalty to the Red Warriors. Jasper Absalon calmly sank the spot kick into the center of the goal to draw the game level.
And in a stroke of genius once more from Arboleda, he replaced Absalon with Echin with 20 minutes left in the match, providing some fresh legs on the attack.
The move was pivotal as the Red and White pushed on the attack and even got a golden chance at the 90th minute. Nonetheless, Bon Opeña failed to connect with his intended target on the free kick.
The chance was not for naught, however, as his team regained possession and Echin collected a pass from the flank. The Surigaonon composedly guided the ball past Joyel, who had gone out of his six-yard box, and found the net. The ball went in as UE shocked its next-door neighbors.
The winning goalscorer recalled, “Iniisip ko talaga na goal yun. Hindi kasi siya nag-approach. Kung nag-approach siya, may chance pa na kabahan ako. Inisip ko lang ipasok yung bola.”
The Red Warriors (8 points) will face the league-leading Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles (26 points) on Thursday, April 6 at 4pm at the Ateneo Moro Lorenzo Field. On the other hand, the Tamaraws (19 points) will take on the Adamson University Soaring Falcons (3 points) earlier that day at 2pm.