Two early goals and another just before the final whistle led UST to a 3-0 victory against UE at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field on Sunday afternoon. The scoreline however does not suggest the real complexion of the game as the Red Warriors had their fair share of opportunities, which unfortunately for them were not converted.
Like in their previous outing last Thursday, UE immediately pressed on the attack and got their first chance to score inside two minutes. Jo Mallen had enough space to launch a shot which sailed well over the bar. It was followed by a decent through ball by Kim Medina. It sliced UST’s defense but John Rey Catalino gathered the ball before a Red Warrior got to it first.
UE established rhythm but struggled to sustain it. Despite being surrounded by five UE players inside the Red Warriors’ box, Gabriel Alcantara was at the right place at the right time to send the ball past UE goalkeeper Lendon Clores and into the net. It was a huge blow for the Recto side after they had been playing toe-to-toe with the Tigers, and they now trailed 0-1.
UE tested Catalino from far out but attempts by Medina and Mason Vergara were fruitless. In between those came Thomasian Efren Menares’ shot that was blocked by Louie Polinag.
Steven Anotado scored his ninth goal of the tournament in spectacular fashion. The forward had plenty of room to shoot the ball outside the box. Noticing that UE’s defense was anticipating a corner, the Tigers’ top scorer cheekily whipped the ball into the net, cushioning UST’s lead to 2-0 at the 21st minute.
Falling down by two, UE did not give up. They evenly contested the succeeding minutes and even wrested control in the last five minutes of the first half. Their aggression, however, was not rewarded by a goal but was enough to limit UST’s lead at two.
Menares opened the second half with a shot going just wide four minutes after the restart. It was the best chance of UST heading into the hour mark as UE pursued to trim the Tigers’ lead. Mallen, Medina, and Regil Galaura all created chances but were denied by the resilient UST back line.
Showing that they can defend steadily, UST sharpened their counterattacking abilities, often alarming UE. A goalkeeping mistake by Clores, who failed to take the ball, resulted in Marc Rivera’s goal with only a minute left in the match. As the final whistle sounded, UST capped a repeat of last round’s encounter against UE.
Coach Marjo Allado of UST was contented with the way his players performed on both ends. “Nakatulong sa kumpiyansa. Focus na against UP next Sunday,” he uttered. The Tigers will go into that game hoping that some of the players recover from the mild injuries they picked up.
Now mathematically booted out of playoff contention, UE remains unfazed after putting up another courageous performance against a playoff-chasing side. UE mentor Ryan Marinay thought the boys created more chances but were unable to translate those into goals. “OK lang pinakita ng mga players [ko]. Swertihan lang talaga,” he reacted.
The result gives UST hope on catching up with the five teams currently favored to get the precious Final Four slots. They are only five points behind fourth-placed FEU but have played a game more than the idle Tamaraws. UE meanwhile will carry on this season in seventh place.