The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles and the Far Eastern University Tamaraws figured in another goalfest as the defending champions from Loyola Heights outlasted their last year’s Finals opponents, 5-4, in a hot Sunday morning at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
With winning as its primary aim for the day, the Blue Eagles soared early on in offense. At just the fifth minute, a wild sequence in front of the FEU goal was eventually put into order by a Koko Gaudiel goal.
It did not take long for the reigning champions to double the lead. Six minutes after, Jarvey Gayoso set up Sam Lim for a beautiful finish past Dave Parac’s guard.
Perhaps knowing the fact, that they too have firepower up top, the Tamaraws did their job on the attack. It might have taken them quite longer, but they finally got one at the 33rd minute.
Jung Donggyu delivered a perfectly placed pass into the box, which found Marole Bungay for a one-touch finish past Ateneo keeper Gavin Rosario.
And with much time left in the first period and they way both teams are playing in transition, goals were still abound. So it did happen, as two more goals, one from each side finished the half.
Gabriel restored Ateneo’s two-hour cushion, taking in a low cross from Christian Castillo at the 42nd minute, only to be replied with a Renz Saldivar goal off a keeping error off Rosario.
The second period was no different than the first half, despite the fact that the paced slowed down a little. Physicality was also rampant as yellow cards flew often, a result of the resilient and aggressive approach of both teams.
A goal was inevitable and not surprisingly, it was the Blue and White turned in their fourth at the 56th minute. This time, Castillo took it upon himself as he heads in the corner kick over the defense and past Parac.
The Blue Eagles then brought the lead back to two, as substitute Ryan Haosen was at the scoring end of another Gayoso effort at the wings, with 18 minutes left in regulation.
Gayoso, the league’s top scorer could have gotten a goal of his own, but he was twice denied by Parac at a sequence of play near the end of the match. It could have been Goal number 17 for the two-time Best Striker and a league-record tying one, but the Tams’ reserved the spot for their own Eric Ben Giganto for now.
However, as what the did throughout the match, the Tamaraws charged with another offensive gem of their own. Saldivar, who has been the headache of the Ateneo defense, weaved past the defense and collected the ball, before resiliently taking down Rosario for the Tams’ final goal.
Unfortunately, that goal came in at added time of the second period and it was too late to deny Ateneo the full points.
Despite the win, Blue Eagles’ head coach JP Merida rues their lack of adjustment to stop FEU’s runs. He said, “Siguro ‘yung nangyari sa team is naging relaxed lang. Tapos kung titignan natin, malakas talaga ‘yung front line ng FEU, especially sa transition. Hindi namin na-solve ‘yung transition, so naging high-scoring game ulit.”
Nonetheless, the squad came up as victors and the mentor was quite pleased, but was cautious of how they will approach their following match against league-leaders UP Fighting Maroons due to some players in yellow cards.
“Of course, we’re happy kasi ang objective naman is to win. Ang worry ko lang is ‘yung game plan against UP, kasi ‘yung mga dapat walang cards, nangyari ngayon. So pag-aaralan namin ngayon what’s the best game plan for UP,” he ended.
That clash of the season’s top two teams will happen on Thursday, April 19 at 4:00pm at the same venue. The Tamaraws shall take the pitch beforehand with their final match of the season against the Adamson Soaring Falcons at 2:00pm. Both matches will be at the same Malate venue.