In its first match in this year’s UAAP Season 79 Football Tournament, the DLSU Men’s Football Team squared off with last season’s champion, the UP Fighting Maroons, earlier today at the Rizal Memorial Stadium. The first half had DLSU scrambling to get possession of the ball, but the team managed to assert its presence during the second half. Meanwhile, the composed Fighting Maroons managed to take control of the latter stages of the game. Despite this, both sides failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities, leading to a 0-0 draw by the end of the game.
Slow first half
The first half showed the resilience of the Fighting Maroons, proving why they are the defending champions. DLSU started off with an early chance, as Rigo Joseph got through UP’s defenders, but goalkeeper Ace Villanueva rushed to the ball and denied the junior.
At the sixth minute, UP had its first scoring chance. Lou Rafanan’s shot went wide for goal kick. Rafanan then went head-to-head with three La Salle defenders four minutes later and was denied by a Nicko Villacin tackle. Another opportunity arose for DLSU at the ninth minute from a free kick from Yoshi Koizumi. His on-target attempt easily went into the hands of Villanueva.
The team from Katipunan may have dominated possession during the first half, but La Salle made sure to keep the Maroons on their feet. At the 15th minute, a free kick was given to Noel Brago, but the Green-and-White was not able to utilize it as the shot went wide and landed on the left side of the net. Joseph once more presented La Salle with another goal opportunity at the 23′ mark as he breezed through UP’s defense. However, as Joseph was about to hit it home, Villanueva rushed in and denied him once again.
UP then went on and continued to push forward for the opening goal of the game. At the 32nd minute, Roland Saavedra slipped through La Salle’s defense. Kerbi Almonte, DLSU’s goalkeeper, was untested, but easily made the save. The Fighting Maroons had the Lasallians scrambling at the 33′ and 34′ mark, but the Maroons misfired and were eventually denied by a composed Almonte. Prior to the halftime whistle, a UP free kick was shot on-target, but was cleared by Brago.
Lively second half
Gelo Diamante replaced Cristian Zubiri in the midfield to begin the second half. G. Diamante’s presence did not faze UP at all as it broke DLSU’s play three times early on. Afterwards, UP’s Daniel Gadia overpowered Jhoguez Ybanez and produced a brilliant through ball to teammate Ray Sanciangco. Villacin made a well-timed tackle, however, to keep the game goalless.
In the 49th minute, it was DLSU’s chance to score with a free kick following UP’s foul on Joseph. Rookie Matthew Custodio lined-up for the 18-yard free kick, but fired over the crossbar. Four minutes later, Saavedra of UP tried his luck from afar, but the ball went straight into the hands of Almonte. DLSU then launched consecutive attacks as they had unsuccessful free kicks and a corner kick. Villanueva almost made a careless pass, but the Lasallians failed to capitalize on the situation.
The team from Katipunan answered back with crosses and a through ball, but DLSU’s steady defense held on once again.
17 minutes after coming on, G. Diamante was replaced by rookie Juan Siggaoat. He went down and needed treatment as he clashed with another player and landed on his knee. “It’s probably just a bruise so I’ll be able to play for our next game,” he mentioned.
UP had another chance to draw first blood, but Kintaro Miyagi fumbled a header with 19 minutes to play. DLSU countered as Joseph slithered past his defenders. However, he mistimed his pass and the Fighting Maroons quickly pounced on the situation. At the 79th minute, UP produced a stunning build-up play with slick passing, but was denied by the Green-and-White defense for an unsuccessful corner kick. Rafanan continued the Fighting Maroon attack with his efforts on the left wing. His efforts paved way for UP’s last scoring opportunity. La Salle was then given a number of free kicks, but failed to convert before the final whistle.
“It’s not the start of the season that we were expecting, but then we didn’t do bad. We saw where we need to improve and I think we have time to prepare for our next games,” shared G. Diamante.
DLSU will face UE in its second game of the season on Sunday, February 12, at 2 pm in the same venue.