The De La Salle University Green and Lady Booters came up with much needed wins against the Ateneo de Manila University Blue and Lady Booters last February 3 at Ateneo’s Moro Lorenzo and Ocampo Football Fields.
With the win, the Green Booters took the lead over Ateneo in the standings while the Lady Booters inched closer to the team’s rival, trailing now by just one point.
Head Coach Hans Smit gladly explained, “Well, it’s just the law of averages, and I told the team that it has to be La Salle that deals Ateneo its first loss, plus the fact that we needed the three points [for the standings]. Now we have overtaken them after they’ve been on top of the league for the longest time, and we only have one game left so it is a better feeling altogether.”
The duo of Gelo Diamante and Don Rabaya led the Green Booters with one goal apiece in the second half to deliver the team’s much-needed 2-0 victory. Ateneo’s star striker Miko Mabanag did not play as he was serving a one game ban for accumulating two yellow cards in consecutive games.
Just two minutes into the game, La Salle already had an opportunity to score after Gio Diamante was fouled outside the penalty box. Defender Greggy Yang’s ensuing free kick was barely caught by Ateneo’s keeper, Yu Murayama, but it set the tone for the first half as La Salle dominated possession.
Ateneo then had an opportunity to score in the 13 minute mark, but Team Captain Patrick Deyto slid out to end the former’s attack.
Deyto explained,“Actually we were supposed to win the last game, but we just had a lapse at the end game. We’ve been playing well in the second round so we just carried on, and we got the same result as what we’ve been getting in the last games.”
La Salle was shaky in the beginning of the second half as Ateneo threatened the defense with two successive attempts in the 53rd minute. The Green Booters did not, however, fold under pressure and instead utilized a counterattack five minutes later to swing ahead with Diamante’s goal.
Coming off a pass from younger brother Gelo Diamante which sliced through the defense, Gio Diamante found himself open in between the Ateneo goal posts before sending the ball through the net to break the back of the Blue Booters for a 1-0 lead.
The younger Diamante, the leading goal scorer for the Green Booters, said, “At first mahirap kasi matigas depensa nila so hindi kami nakapasok sa first half pero second half we kept pushing, and we used the instructions [that] coach gave us. We got through and took the opportunity, and we got to convert it into a goal.”
La Salle’s onslaught continued as Don Rabaya found an opportunity to put the game away in the 73 minute mark. He sent the ball through the keeper and into the net after craftily navigating through the foes in blue.
One more chance
Following the Green Booters, the Lady Booters also emerged triumphant in a hard-fought game against rival Ateneo, 2-1. The win gave the team an opportunity to earn a finals berth.
With less than a minute after kickoff, Cristina Viray gave the Lady Booters the lead. Receiving the ball from Megan Diaz’s cross, Viray sent the ball past Ateneo’s Angelica Tiu.
Ateneo managed to equalize through Mia Cartedrilla’s shot after 65 minutes of play. With the team’s title ambitions hanging on the balance, the Lady Booters tirelessly attacked Ateneo’s defense.
La Salle’s persistence matured on the 78th minute when Cha Guancia broke free from the Ateneo defense. The striker surged towards the goal. Tiu was able to parry Guancia’s initial attempt, but the latter managed to get the rebound to score the match-winning goal.
“We had some lapses, but we made sure that we made up for it,” said Guancia.
Second-choice Goalkeeper Erika Turtur played her first UAAP game after starting Goalkeeper Inna Palacios dislocated her shoulder during the team’s training. Turtur made critical stops to save the Lady Booters from elimination.
“I feel like it’s [the win] a blessing,” said the 18-year old goalkeeper who celebrated her “debut” by manning the posts for the Lady Booters.
An uphill battle
The Green Booters will go up against the defending champion, the UP Fighting Maroons, for a critical win that could guarantee La Salle second place in the Final Four stage.
The Lady Booters, on the other hand, will have to win their next game against UP and hope that UST will not win against the undefeated squad from FEU before the ladies from Taft can even hope to see the championship round.
“We got this win, and it’s good because our momentum is up since we’ll need it to win our last game. That’s the only thing we have in our control,” said Lady Booters Captain Miel Ampil.
The graduating Deyto concluded, “We just have to keep on playing the same way. For the whole second round, we’ve won all of our games, and we’ve been approaching them very well. We just have to keep the momentum flowing and keep it up.”