In a battle of the two new coaches of the UAAP Season 79 Men’s Football Tournament, the National University Bulldogs earned a 2-2 draw against the University of the East Red Warriors.
Mar Diano (14′) and Bon Opeña (26′) gave UE head coach Fitch Arboleda a dream start at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila. However, fellow debutant coach Mari Aberasturi saw his side earn a point after goals Patrick Valenzuela (82′) & Lawrence Colina (87′).
“Actually yung game very good siya for starting the UAAP this season. Sobrang ganda lang ng game. So 2-2, I think that’s enough for both teams na ganda ng nilaro,” commented Arboleda.
NU started the game brightly when Lawrence Colina saw his shot easily saved by UE goalie Frank Rieza. From then on, it was UE which dominated the first half.
Diano found himself through on goal and perhaps should have finished better against NU goalie Hayeson Pepito. NU failed to heed the warning signs and the Bulldogs conceded moments later.
A defensive mix-up allowed Diano another chance at goal and he made no mistake at the 14th minute when he looped the ball above Pepito to give the Red Warriors first blood in the contest. UE was elated and maintained its momentum in the period.
It was all UE at this point and the Red Warriors were well worth their lead. Opena tried his luck from distance and forced a routine save from Pepito. Opeña then took advantage of another defensive error by the NU backline to double UE’s advantage at the 26th minute.
The first half ended with UE winning 2-0 against NU which was a fair result at the break. NU needed to add more incision to its attack if it wanted to get something out of the game.
Once the game restarted, both squads relied heavily on set pieces to create goalscoring opportunities against each other. Rieza and Pepito, though, were relatively untested as the Bulldogs and Red Warriors defenses easily cleared their lines.
Everything changed at the 82nd minute when Valenzuela produced a goal out of nowhere to give the Bulldogs a chance to either share the spoils or even clinch a win against the Red Warriors.
The Bulldogs then sensed an opportunity to clinch something in the game. They pushed on towards finding an equalizer and finally got their reward when Colina converted a wonderful freekick at the 87th minute.
NU had one last free kick deep into stoppage time, only for the UE defense to hold firm. It ended UE 2-2 NU in what was a fair reflection of a game of two halves.
“Not as expected and we wanted to win pero draw. I think jitter sa first half especially sa first game sa tournament so marami rin kaming rookie sa team. Kabahan siguro,” reasoned out Aberasturi.
UE XI: Absalon, Dagaraga, Diano, Galaura, Lerion, Malayo, Mallen, Opeña, Polinag, Rieza, Vergara.
NU XI: Alivio, Arbela, Colina, Dagsa, Jalandoni, Lawagan, Marcaida, Pepito, Sullano. Valenzuela, Viray.
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