No one would have expected the University of the East Red Warriors to prevail over the University of Santo Tomas Golden Booters.
With UST flying high in 2nd place in the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Football Tournament standings, and UE beneath them in the bottom four, the Golden Booters were expected to win. But the ball is always round, and Regil Galaura’s 43rd minute goal handed UE a 1-0 victory over UST, Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
“Ito yung crucial game na kailangan naming kunin kasi pag hindi namin nakuha ito, mababaon na kami sa ilalim (ng standings),” commented UE coach Fitch Arboleda after his team’s stunner.
The Golden Booters and Red Warriors locked horns evenly in the first half. The Golden Booters knew they had a fight on their hands, as the Red Warriors have proved that they were no pushovers in their past games.
AJ Pasion could have handed UST the lead when he was through on goal, but his attempt went way over UE keeper Frank Rieza’s goal. The Red Warriors were lucky to not have conceded then, and they made good use of the reprieve.
With only two minutes left in the period, Galaura unleashed a shot from a tight angle inside the Golden Booters’ box, which proved to be too strong for UST goalkeeper Zaldy Abraham.
Desperation crept into the Golden Booters’ game. UST were in an unfamiliar position, as Galaura’s goal marked the first time that the España school conceded a goal this season. On the other hand, UE were good value for their lead and the Recto school relied on counterattacks to threaten UST.
Time ticked on and Marjo Allado’s men looked like they had run out of ideas, because of the Red Warriors’ compact and organised defense. One UE counterattack saw midfielder Clark Begsic through on goal, but the player dribbled too much and the opportunity was wasted.
“Actually nag-adjust talaga ako. From last game kasi yung defense namin sobrang kinadkad ng attempts ng Ateneo. Basically sa training inadjust namin yung kailangang gawin sa defense lalo na sa counterattack ng UST. Talagang sobrang delikado kasi. UST never stops,” added Arboleda.
UST never really gave Rieza a scare, and the final whistle was music to UE ears, as the Red Warriors survived for a victory that puts them back into Final Four contention. “Tuloy lang namin siguro yung momentum namin. Yung Adamson kasi nakaka-contang ng game pero hopefully mahahanap namin yung mga attempts, sana ma-finish namin,” concluded Arboleda.
It is the second straight year that UE ruined an undefeated team’s record. Last year, the Red Warriors did it to the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, and they did it again today against the Golden Booters, who had won four games and drew one beforehand.
UST and UE shall end the first round on March 4 at Rizal Memorial. The Golden Booters will play the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in a top of the table clash at 9:00 AM, while the Red Warriors and the Adamson University Soaring Falcons go head-to-head afterwards at 4:00 PM.