The Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraw Booters overcame a slow start in the opening half and avenged their first round loss against the National University (NU) Bulldogs, 5-1, in their second round matchup of the UAAP Season 77 Men’s Football Tournament at the FEU-Diliman Football Field in Quezon City.
Both teams started slow in the first half, but NU had the upper hand in the 3rd minute when Paolo Salenga was fouled by FEU goalkeeper Patrick Rallos, resulting in a penalty kick. Salenga took the penalty kick, but Rallos made up for his earlier mistake and denied the shot.
NU continued to pressure FEU. The Tams had a few attempts of their own, but none threatened NU goalkeeper Chris Perocho. The stalemate was broken at the 17th minute. NU’s Nico Macapal broke through the FEU defense and sent a high cross to the streaking Salenga, who caught the ball midair and volleyed it into the goal. Rallos did not have enough time to react, thus letting the ball find the net, 1-nil. After the goal, NU seized momentum against the Tams while strengthening their box defense to prevent FEU from creating clear shots to the goal. The first half ended with NU ahead, 1-nil.
The second half became a totally different story, as FEU regained their bearings and changed the complexion of the game. In a great display of tiki-taka offense, Audie Menzi found Nicolas Ferrer on the right wing who then crossed the ball perfectly to Arnel Amita, who sent the ball straight to the net, sending the match to a 1-1 scoreline.
FEU continued to garner possessions and scored at the 60th minute, when Ferrer once again crossed the ball from the right wing to a streaking Jhan Jhan Melliza, who then volleyed it into the net, making it 2-1. The Bulldogs tried to rally back, but FEU halted their rally through a goal at the 64th minute, courtesy of rookie Menzi, who shot the ball way outside the penalty box, much to the surprise of the NU defenders, widening the gap to two goals, 3-1.
FEU’s might in the offensive end continued at the 74th minute. Amita found space inside NU’s penalty box and shot the ball through the net.
Five minutes later, at the 79th minute, NU’s Darwin Regala, wanting to regain possession, fouled Val Jurao. Jurao then took a free kick that resulted in a fumble inside NU’s penalty box. It was Michael Menzi who found the ball in between NU defenders, and once again scored for FEU. FEU continued to find ways to try and score, but all attempts either went wide or got caught by the NU goalie until the final whistle was blown. The match ended in FEU’s favor, 5-1.
FEU assistant coach Dexter Chio admitted the team’s lack of communication within the pitch during the first half, but quickly commended the squad for regaining focus during the second half. “Di sila masyado nagco-communicate sa loob ng field nung first half,” said Chio. “Pero natauhan sila nung second half,” he added.
With the win, FEU stays in fourth place and widens the gap between themselves and NU in fifth place to four points with only three games left.