Gerardo Valmayor netted a goal for the third consecutive match of the season to power the UP Fighting Maroons over the NU Bulldogs, 1-0, Thursday afternoon at the FEU-Diliman football field.
It was an interesting first half between UP and NU. The two teams shared possession about evenly over the first 45 minutes. The Maroons were more creative from open play while the Bulldogs’ offense came mostly from free kicks. The best chances to score in the first half fell to Valmayor. His first attempt came seven minutes into the game when he swung a shot wide after battling several NU defenders for the ball. The second happened 15 minutes later, this time Valmayor had more space but hit his shot off target.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, tried their luck from distance but never possessed the danger to bother the sturdy UP defense. Two of Jericho Dagsa’s free kicks were easily collected by Ace Villanueva who was never bothered much in the first half.
Still goalless entering the second half, UP remained active in finding their first goal in the game. After producing multiple chances in breaching the NU defense, the Maroons finally found a goal courtesy of wonderfully worked team play. Soheil Bidar located Vincent Aguilar who swiftly passed the ball to Valmayor. Jinggoy, as he is fondly called, then created room for himself to score the game’s only goal in the 70th minute by sending the ball far from Hayeson Pepito’s reach and into the bottom corner.
Having scored in every match he has played this season, the UP forward shared the credit with his teammates saying, “It’s not [just] because of me; it’s because of my teammates. They give me balls that I am set to finish.”
After scoring a goal, the Maroons looked to open the floodgates. Three minutes after Valmayor’s goal, Aguilar had a decent attempt just outside the six-yard box that was blocked by Arnel Casil. Aguilar and Valmayor teamed up in unsuccessfully unlocking the NU defense after Aguilar was denied of a look at goal.
NU gambled on scoring from long range again but it turned out to be fruitless with Villanueva comfortable throughout the game. There was a chance for Valmayor to score his fifth goal of the season but Pepito parried away his free kick from long distance in the 90th minute.
“The game could have been a lot easier had we been more patient in building up and just finding the right timing when to really push forward,” shared UP coach Anto Gonzales, who also thought the team had a rough first half before playing better in the game’s last 45 minutes.
The win allowed UP to join FEU and Ateneo on top of the UAAP Season 77 Men’s Football Tournament leaderboards with all teams having identical two wins, one draw, and no losses. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs, now in solo fifth place, tasted their first loss of the season. They recorded a win against Adamson and a draw with Ateneo prior to this encounter.