The De La Salle Green Archers stay undefeated in Season 77 as the first round of men’s football came to a close, after a surviving a feisty showing from the University of Santo Tomas Golden Booters to take a narrow 2-1 victory Thursday afternoon at the FEU Diliman Football Field.
The first half opened to a counterattacking clash between the two sides. UST easily established their presence in the wing, care of Erfren Menares Jr. and Marvin Jake Bricenio, whose crosses kept the La Salle defense on their toes. The Tigers however struggled to find a way into the penalty area, and it was the boys in green who dominated the midfield throughout the half. The Archers were rewarded with their first goal of the game at the 17th minute, after Gelo Diamante managed to connect with a free kick by Gerald Layumas. Diamante’s header sent the ball curved into an arc too high for UST goalie John Rey Catalino to catch, and it eventually found the net. The Archers’ celebration was cut short when Diamante was unable to get up after an awkward landing, and had to be helped back up to his feet by his teammates.
Nicholas Villacin had the chance to double the La Salle tally later at the 21st minute, after he was able to send a free kick from the left wing into the direction of the net, but the ball was parried away by Catalino.
After struggling to find a way through the midfield for the early first half, Jogi Celiz managed to sneak past the La Salle defense at the 25th minute to go one-on-one with La Salle goalie Raphael de Guzman, but he lost control of the ball before he could tap it into the direction of the goal. The ball was easily collected by De Guzman.
Around the 30th minute, Diamante had to be taken out of the game after another bad fall after colliding with UST goalie Catalino while trying to attack from the right wing. He was replaced by Chuck Uy, who at the 34th minute had the chance to score one for La Salle after finding a good angle to strike from the right wing, but the ball sailed past the post.
Approaching the 39th minute, UST’s Norwyn Ortañez was slapped with two yellow cards in quick succession, after two violent tackles on La Salle’s Jose Montelibano just a minute apart. He was immediately sent off the pitch, leaving the Tigers down to 10 men for the game.
With UST still struggling to establish their presence in front of the goal, the La Salle counterattack yielded a few more near-hits in the last five minutes of the first half. The last shot of the half however came from UST’s Joridale Molino, whose volley from just beyond the penalty box ended up sailing wide. At halftime, La Salle led 1-0.
The Tigers finally found a way into the Archers’ penalty area at the 47th minute , and were promptly rewarded. After squeaking past the La Salle defense, Molino positioned himself in point-blank range, before flinging the ball towards the goal. The ball was immediately knocked off course by La Salle goalie De Guzman, but it bounced back into play and was collected by Gabriel Daniel Alcantara, who easily tapped the ball into the net.
Looking to retake the lead, the Archers immediately shifted gears and focused on their attack. It was Nate Alquiros who helmed the La Sallians’ counterattack, distributing the ball and taking every free kick. The 60th minute saw the start of a series of narrow misses for the Archers, who repeatedly came close to finding their much-needed second goal, but whose shots were all wide or stopped in their tracks by the fast hands of Catalino. The reinvigorated UST attackers themselves found a couple more opportunities, but kept conceding the ball to the La Sallians’ counterattack.
With the score still unchanged approaching the 90th minute, it appeared the fixture was headed to a draw. But at the 89th minute, the Archers had something to celebrate about, when Nate Alquiros found Christian Zubiri lurking just in front of the goal. Zubiri easily connected with Alquiros’ cross with a header that sent the ball flying past Catalino for the goal. The Archers had no trouble stopping the Tigers from pulling off any last-minute miracles, and exited the pitch at the end of the extra time with the win.
“Dapat mahawakan namin ‘yung bola, yung possession,” said La Salle assistant coach Elvin Marcellana, speaking in place of La Salle head coach Hans Smit, who was participating in a Philippine Football Federation event and was absent from the sidelines. “Iyong mga katawan nila medyo pagod eh, so more long balls. Dahil sa pagkapanalo naming ngayon, medyo lumaki chance namin this season.”
“Kaya namin labanan lahat ng teams,” said UST head coach Marjo Allado, when asked about his team’s performance in today’s game. “Pero minsan ang pumapatay sa amin ay ang [lack of] experience.”
The Archers remain undefeated this season, with four wins and three draws to their name after the first round of the men’s football tournament. UST meanwhile continues to slump, with a record of two wins, no draws, and five losses.
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