The DLSU Men’s Football team ended UAAP Season 77 at second place after a 3-2 loss in extra time to the FEU Tamaraws in the season final at Rizal Memorial last March 8.
It was a very highly competitive match-up between the two teams, with FEU gainingthe upper hand early in the first half of extra time. The remaining time was simply not enough for the top-seeded La Salle to tie the game and they ended their campaign with their first loss of the season.
On the defensive
Throughout the first half, the defensive line of DLSU was tested by the Tamaraws. Only two minutes into the match, FEU already had an attempt on goal, but goalkeeper Paeng de Guzman of La Salle was there for the save.
Not long after that, the defending champions had another attempt on goal via a free kick, but once again, de Guzman was on top of the action and earned himself another save.
DLSU’s Yoshiharu Koizumi earned himself the first yellow card of the match by fouling one of the FEU defenders in their half of the field. In the 21st minute, Gio Diamante was able to get a clean shot on goal but it was blocked by the FEU keeper.
Moments later, FEU’s goalie made a crucial mistake of stepping over the penalty box with the ball in his hand, which led to an indirect free kick for La Salle right outside the box. Nathan Alquiros’ ensuing attempt proved to be one of the closest chances in the match as his shot hit the crossbar and was cleared by the FEU defense.
Minutes later, FEU’s De Chaves was shown a yellow card for delaying the game. FEU remained on the offensive as they continuously pressed La Salle’s defense with a barrage of attacks. In the 40th minute, FEU came close to a goal as well as their wingman was able to deliver a perfect cross to their striker in the middle, who delivered a header that was eventually caught by de Guzman.
Two minutes later, FEU’s Menzi was shown the third yellow card of the match as he fouled La Salle’s Nathan Alquiros. As the half was about to end, DLSU was able to come up with another chance, but Sabin Bustamante’s shot flew over the goal. The half ended as a draw, but FEU dominated possession and had more shots.
It was a high octane second half as a total of four goals were scored in just a span of twenty five minutes. In the 62nd minute, Gio Diamante scored on a scrappy sequence of play resulting from a corner kick by Alquiros. The shot went straight to the goal and found the back of the net since FEU’s keeper had poor visibility due to the crowded box.
A mere ten minutes later, the Tamaraws momentarily equalized the game with an off-beat play of their own, with Eric Giganto scoring off a rebound in the 72nd minute.
Sabin Bustamante provided the Taft-based squad their second goal after lobbing the ball over the goalkeeper off a through ball in the 81st minute. The La Salle crowd was could already taste the championship and was already celebrating, but Jesus Melliza, who was crowned the UAAP Season 77 Men’s Football Most Valuable Player after the match, evened it up at two goals apiece just two minutes later with a shot to the left corner of the goal.
The two teams were tied after ninety minutes of play, thus calling for a 30 minute extra time period.
As extra time started, FEU was at it again, pushing the ball up the field to pressure the Lasallian defense. Four minutes in, FEU was able to find a crack in the defense and Pao Bugas shot the ball to the top corner to put them up by one goal, 3-2.
La Salle remained composed and began creating chances for themselves. Chuck Uy was able to get a shot on goal but it was saved by the keeper. The first half of extra time ended with FEU up, 3-2.
DLSU scrambled to salvage the season in the second half of extra time. Determined to win the final game of his UAAP career, Alquiros tried to will his team on and led La Salle’s offensive charge. However, FEU’s defense, and also their excessive amount of injuries which delayed the game, hindered any opportunity for La Salle to score.
FEU came away with their second consecutive UAAP Men’s Football Championship as time expired, completing a sweep of all three football divisions (Men’s, Women’s, Juniors) this year.
After their emotional defeat, graduating co-captain Matthew Nierras expressed his sentiments on his bittersweet departure from the DLSU Men’s Football team. “I just hope they [DLSU Men’s Football Team] could continue. We, Gio [Diamante] and Nate [Alquiros], have been trying to motivate them to do better because we know they’re good but we know that we could push it this much higher. They cannot give themselves a ceiling to reach. They have to break that ceiling and to go beyond that and that’s what we’ve been trying to do every single day and that’s what i think they can do,” said Nierras.
With the conclusion of this UAAP season, key members of the DLSU Men’s and Women’s Football Teams were recognized by the UAAP for their individual performances. In the women’s division, Chelo Hodges was named the Rookie of the Year while Inna Palacios received the Best Goalkeeper Award. De Guzman of the Men’s Team also took home the Best Goalkeeper award while Alquiros was proclaimed as the Best Midfielder of the season.