A return to the Finals. Another run at that inaugural UAAP Women’s Football Championship. That was at stake for the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons in their match against the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles.
And the Lady Maroons pulled it off in narrow fashion against a hungry Lady Eagles side during their second round encounter. BG Sta. Clara scored twice in seven minutes (46′ & 53′) to secure UP a place in the Finals against De La Salle University, today (April 16, 2016), at the McKinley Hill Stadium. Ateneo star midfielder Cam Rodriguez (48′) pull one back for the Lady Eagles, but it wasn’t enough as UP finished as, 2-1, winners after ninety minutes.
Caution was quite evident in the first half. With how important this fixture was, it came as no surprise that both teams took a while before they can finally get the groove on. The forwards were starved of service as the two midfields canceled each other out and the defenses weren’t generous for those in attack. UP, though, just shaded it as Ateneo struggled to get pass their pressing.
Cristina De Los Reyes had the onus to lead the UP attack, but Ateneo goalkeeper Marie Rianne Caparros wasn’t really threatened with the former’s two attempts. UP were dominant for roughly the first twenty minutes of the match, yet Ateneo easily snuff out the danger poised at them.
At the other end, creative responsibility fell to Rodriguez who in turn didn’t disappoint. Time and time again, Rodriguez delivered good balls in the UP box, but her teammates failed to capitalize on them. Ateneo needed an Annika Ong free kick for to test UP goalkeeper AJ Javier who easily dealt with the attempt. It was at that point of the match when Ateneo finally stamped their feet on the contest.
Unlike UP earlier in the match, Ateneo were able to convert their possession into chances. Twice Teresa Bernardo had a sniff at goal only for her to shoot wide at both times. Before halftime, Antonette Amoncio worked herself to a good attempt towards Javier’s goal, yet the finishing let her down. It finished, 0-0, at halftime which was perhaps a bit unfortunate for Ateneo.
All hell broke loose, though, as soon as the second half started. Sta. Clara headed the ball into the back of the Ateneo net from a corner at the 46th minute. Not to be undone, Ateneo soon equalized courtesy of Rodriguez’s shot inside the UP box at the 48th minute. Moments later, Sta. Clara got her second of the day her low shot crept into the Ateneo goal after Caparros rushed out at the 53rd minute.
Some calmness then entered the game after those seven crazy minutes. UP sought the third goal, but Caparros routinely caught two Cassandra Alleje free kicks and a volley by substitute Martha Dagdag. Once the last fifteen minutes of the match kicked in, though, it was all Ateneo.
Unlike the first half, chances were few in between for Ateneo. Substitute winger Martie Bautista delivered crosses from the left flank, but none of the Lady Eagles took advantage of them while Rodriguez shot her two attempts wide. With only a few minutes left in the match, Bautista linked up with fellow substitute Pamela Diaz with the latter’s attempt too weak to harm Javier. UP won, 2-1, at the end ninety minutes and booked their place in this season’s finals.
For UP head coach Anto Gonzales, the win was a welcome development and he looked forward to facing DLSU for the title. Gonzales said, “We’re happy we’re back in the finals pero we have to do a lot of work to be able to compete against La Salle who’s a very strong team. Good thing we get Mary Rose Obra back. BG has been playing well for us, stepping up sa absence ni Kali Huff. Hopefully we can fix the things we need to work on against La Salle. I think medyo si Sara Castaneda na-contain namin sa last game pero si Kyla Inquig at si Shannon Arthur, we’re very loose on them. They were the ones who created problems for us so hopefully we can make the necessary adjustments. We have a long break so hopefully we can be 100% ready for La Salle.”
UP have no elimination round games left and their place in the finals is already secured as their 14 points is insurmountable compared to the bottom three teams. DLSU is up next for UP in the Finals which will be held on Thursday (May 5, 2016) at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila. In contrast, Ateneo still have the University of Santo Tomas to play against on Saturday (April 23, 2016) at the McKinley Hill Stadium.