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UST edges La Salle, boosts chance of Finals return

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On the night the defending champions FEU Lady Tamaraws secured a place in the finals, last year’s finalists UST Golden Tigresses reignited the possibility of a Season 76 Finals rematch by beating DLSU, 1-0, thanks to Pearl Aguilar’s second half strike at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field.

The Golden Tigresses started the game early with three through balls, all telegraphed by DLSU Goalkeeper Erika Turtur. It then prompted UST to force their way from distance at the 10th minute, with Hazel Lustan trying twice but to no avail. La Salle’s Irish Navaja followed her lead, only for the scorer of last pound’s game-winner to shoot off target.

The next array of chances came in the middle of the half when Jena Abuan blasted a long-range wide. Navaja then also unsuccessfully fired from far out. The closest of the long-range efforts happened at the half hour mark when Jae Abuan’s shot brushed off the bar.

Needing a goal, La Salle began to control the game. Nicole Andaya crossed the ball to Chelo Hodges, but the rookie forward’s attempt did not bother UST’s experienced goalkeeper Rara Luna. Navaja, with her third attempt from distance, again over the bar. Nina Arrieta had her free kick calmly collected before Hodges nearly converted off a UST defensive lapse had it not been for Luna’s intervention. Just before halftime, it was the Tigresses’ turn to stir up a few chances of their own. Sheen Ramirez and the Aguilar sisters attempted wayward shots while Jena Abuan’s free kick was easily saved by Turtur.

Few goal-scoring opportunities happened in the second half with both teams sniffing out danger most of the time. The second half’s first shot, however, proved to be the difference. Given enough space at the right wing, Pearl Aguilar made the La Salle defense pay by scooping a shot into the net to put UST ahead.

After going ahead, UST gained momentum for the rest of the game, playing defensively to prevent DLSU from equalizing. It seemed to work as La Salle’s best chance came 15 minutes from time courtesy of Regine Metillo but her shot was routinely gathered by Luna. At the end of the night, UST held on to frustrate La Salle via a narrow 1-0 win.

Judal Surito, Coach of UST, shared that he instructed the team to give their best ahead of a crucial game. “Had we lost this game, we’re out of the tournament. Every game is a must win for us,” he elaborated. Overall, he liked the way the team stayed compact on defense for the entirety of the match. “Madali lang ‘yan [offense] basta mas maganda ‘yung depensa na nilalaro natin,” he said while adding that last week’s results and them being on bye were beneficial to them, as they now gain momentum towards sneaking into the race for the second available Finals slot.

As for DLSU, they would have to hope that other results fall their way. Easily, their destiny is out of their hands. A win by UP against UST next week would be enough for La Salle, together with UST and Ateneo, to be eliminated from the race. DLSU Assistant Coach Alvin Ocampo was disappointed that the team played more defensively as he would have liked. “La Salle needed the three points. Even to salvage a one-point draw, okay na sana kaso the team, naging defensive. We needed to be more offensive. Kailangan ng score eh,” he lamented. As of the moment, UST moves ahead of Ateneo in fourth with six points while La Salle stays third with eight points.

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