Goals from Charmaine Fagaragan and Sharmine Siaotong ensured that the FEU Lady Tamaraws are in the finals for the third straight season following a 2-0 win over UP at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field on Saturday afternoon.
The defending champions, whose passage to the Finals was halted by La Salle last week, took no time to make their intentions realized. Just two minutes into the match, FEU went ahead. The Lady Tamaraws launched a quick attack after intercepting UP’s attempt to play rapid off a dead ball. Ina Araneta got ahead of the pack before giving the ball to Charmaine Fagaragan. The forward sneaked the ball in towards the net with technique, timing it well to beat the rushing UP goalkeeper AJ Javier.
After seizing the advantage, FEU sought to immediately extend it. They got to sustain the attacking rhythm for it but did not have the touches to make it happen. Alesa Dolino had a couple of free kicks; one went wide while the other was saved by Javier. Barbie Sobredo and Kimberly Cupal also had shots but neither doubled their lead.
Playing in the back foot in the first 15 minutes of the match, UP established their offense at the 17th minute. Cristina delos Reyes found Mary Obra on the left flank but her cross into the box was easily gathered by FEU goalie Shermaine Ramos. Their best chance came 19 minutes after kickoff, when Obra’s header off a Kali Navea-Huff cross had the power but not the accuracy to send it past Ramos.
The brief UP attacking game was then halted by the Lady Tamaraws who regained momentum in the match. Araneta had two opportunities to score. At the 24th minute, her long distance attempt skied over the bar. Four minutes later, she had a better look on goal by maneuvering past Javier. With no one guarding the net, Araneta launched from a narrow angle but her effort was cleared by Marie Navea-Huff. In the ensuing corner, Sobredo’s corner went straight to Cupal who headed wide at the half hour mark.
FEU’s attack-oriented approach yielded a near goalscoring opportunity with eight minutes remaining in the opening half. Araneta nearly made UP pay when she took advantage of a communication lapse between Javier and M. Navea-Huff but her shot was booted off the line by Christina Mendoza. It was then followed by two dangerous crossed from Fagaragan in the last few minutes of the first half. Both her deliveries located teammates but Siaotong and Araneta misfired. At the interval, the score remained 1-0, narrowly in favor of the Lady Tamaraws.
The second half was played slower, much to the comfort of FEU. Five minutes after the restart, Fagaragan failed to maximize another fumble committed by the Lady Maroons but the ball was eventually stripped off her. In the succeeding play, Siaotong scooped her shot off target. It was followed by a quick exchange of chances, the only one throughout the half, as K. Navea-Huff drilled a cross to Delos Reyes but the forward nodded off target. Then, Araneta whipped a shot inside the box. Javier was able to stop it but its power seemed to have been too much for the UP goalie to handle. Nonetheless, Javier recovered in time to prevent Fagaragan from tapping in.
The game’s pace then slowed down, with both teams carefully designing plays to score the pivotal second goal of the game; for UP to equalize or for FEU to pull away. Six minutes after the hour mark, Siaotong surprised the UP defense by chipping in from way out to double the green-and-gold’s advantage. Cupal almost added a third at the 70th minute but fired her attempt off the mark.
The Lady Maroons were given a lifeline in the game when Delos Reyes’ shot struck a Lady Tamaraws’ arm, earning a penalty in the process. Molly Manalansan, unfortunately for them, smacked her shot straight at Ramos. The midfielder aimed to make amends moments later but skied her shot over the bar. Deep in the game, Araneta and Roselle Lecera looked to add insult to injury, but Javier managed to keep their shots out.
FEU Coach Let Dimzon expressed immense happiness with the result. “Nakikita ‘yung fire, ‘yung spirit. Gusto talaga nila makuha ‘yung game na ito.” While many of the chances were not converted, Dimzon was pleased that the opening goal came early as it boosted the team’s confidence throughout the game.
On the distaff, UP Coach Anto Gonzales is concerned about how his players performed. “I’m not really looking at the three-game winless streak, but looking to fix kung ano ‘yung nga problems,” which for him included the team’s vulnerability in counter-attacking and lack of stability in goalkeeping.
FEU, now safely through to the Finals, will field their second string players against Ateneo to provide ample rest for their key players, according to Coach Let Dimzon. As for UP they will be aiming to solidify their hold on second place when they go against UST next week.