The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles are defending champions for a reason.
In a rematch of last year’s finals, the Blue Eagles found a way to edge out the Far Eastern University Tamaraws for a 4-3 victory to end the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Football Tournament first round with a win Sunday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
“Yung assessment ko regarding sa bad behavior ng players, yung overconfidence every time we lead pero ang maganda lang dun is yung character nila. Yung nangyari sa first half, talagang hindi sila nag-give up. I’m happy doon sa ginawa nila. Pero of course, paulit-ulit lang yung character at yung overconfidence parang nag-alternate lang siya,” commented Ateneo coach Jay Pee Merida.
Ateneo raced to an early lead thanks to Jarvey Gayoso. The third-year striker slalomed his way past the Tamaraws defense and coolly put the ball at the back of the net after 18 minutes of play.
That was as good as it got for the Blue Eagles in the first half. While the Tamaraws may be undergoing a difficult start to their season, they showed that what they lack in personnel is made up in their fighting spirit.
FEU overturned Gayoso’s goal in in stunning fashion thanks to Gilbert Mendoza Jr’s first half stoppage time brace. Mendoza tapped the ball into the goal for the equalizer and looped the ball above Ateneo goalkeepr Jae Arcilla to get the lead at the stroke of halftime.
The Blue Eagles then responded with a leveler of their own nearly halfway through the second half. Gayoso headed in Alfredo Mathay’s cross from the left-flank at the 66th minute to put both teams back to square one.
Seven minutes later, Merida’s men regained the lead in thanks to a set-piece Rupert Bana’s corner lead to a scramble inside the Tamaraws box. Ryan Haosen headed Bana’s corner kick downwards and Julian Roxas’ converted form close range at the 73rd minute was enough to swing the momentum back to Ateneo.
Just like in the first half, though, the Tamaraws found a way to draw level. Mendoza got his third goal of the match at the 82nd minute when he penetrated the Blue Eagles box from the left flank and shot past Arcilla.
Nevertheless, the Blue Eagles still had one more goal in their locker to settle the contest. Haosen was unmarked in the Tamaraws box and the forward made no mistake as he headed the ball past FEU goalie Dave Parac three minutes from time.
Haosen’s goal turned out to be the last of the heart-racing contest. Ateneo ultimately prevailed 4-3 at FEU’s expense. The win allows the Blue Eagles to climb up to 2nd place in the standings with 15 points while the Tamaraws remain at 7th place with five points.
“We need to fix this especially in the second round. We’re lucky kasi talagang nakaka-atake kami tapos nandun yung character nila after mag-concede kami or mag-lead yung kalaban. Pero in football hindi all the time ganun mangyari (ang makabalik),” concluded Merida.