As a conclusion to their disappointing season, the DLSU Men’s XI failed to notch another win as they battled the UST Growling Tigers to a goalless draw earlier today at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field in Ateneo.
Although DLSU managed to bag 16 points from four wins, four draws, and six loses, it was still not enough for a Final Four berth this UAAP Season 79.
DLSU kicked-off the first half with its graduating players Jose Montelibano, Gelo Diamante, Nace Gonzales, and Jhoguev Ybanez starting the match. “Simple lang, I already said last week, after the game against Ateneo, that this last game will be for the seniors, for its their last UAAP,” head coach Hans Smit shared his thoughts after the game.
He elaborated and said, “But I told them, that doesn’t mean that they’re gonna play the whole game. If they don’t play the way I want them to play, and the way they’re supposed to play, they’ll sit down.”
Even with La Salle’s seniors starting altogether for one last time, the team struggled to dictate the tempo of the game. UST eventually got a hold of the ball and tested DLSU goalkeeper Kerbi Almonte early on. A long free kick was taken at the sixth minute and a Growling Tiger connected with it, but his header went straight to Almonte. G. Diamante answered back with an audacious shot from distance, but it resulted for a goal kick as it went wide.
Meanwhile, UST continued to dominate possession thus resulting in numerous chances for the team from Espana. Renz Gumban produced a cross inside the box after coming from the left flank as his cross was cleared out by DLSU defender Noel Brago. A throw in from the left side of the pitch was made a couple of minutes later as La Salle struggled to make a clearance.
During the barrage of attacks from UST, Jed Diamante also produced an attempt from distance which went off-target. Just before the half ended, Nicko Villacin made a crunching tackle on a UST player near the La Salle bench thus earning him the first and only yellow card of the game.
La Salle came in the second half with G. Diamante wearing the captain’s armband instead of Gonzales. “Noel and I were the original captains before [Diamante] decided to call it quits, but then he came back, so I said, ‘This is our last year, we both exchange arm bands, so it represents the two of us, how we were able to lead the team together in the last two years,’” said Gonzales.
Garcia got things started for DLSU with a shot on-target as he tested UST goalkeeper John Catalino. The buildup play started when a cross was made near the left side of the halfway line before a Lasallian connected with the ball and headed it down to G. Diamante inside the box. The veteran was able to control the ball and flicked it to an open Garcia, but his low shot near the left post was quickly saved by Catalino.
Montelibano’s UAAP playing career ended at the 54th minute when he was substituted by Cristian Zubiri. The outgoing winger shared his assessment of the season and said, “We could’ve performed better. We didn’t perform to what people expected us to play, and basically there’s a lot of things we need to work on. It’s time for us to rebuild, especially the rookies, there’s a lot of potential.”
Although the team from Taft had more possession and chances with the ball compared to the first half, the Lasallians were unable to convert a goal to cap off their season. The Diamante brothers had the last few chances for DLSU in the game with J. Diamante trying another long shot which went wide. G. Diamante took a free kick near the edge of the box but it was a UST player who connected with his sublime cross and directed the ball to the hands of Catalino.
Another graduating senior was substituted out at the 79’ mark as co-captain Gonzales was substituted by Mauro Acot. “Not a win, but it was more how we wanted to enjoy the game, enjoy what we are as a team, enjoy how we play as a team. It was more of a gift, a gift to the seniors,” Gonzales said on the last game of the season.
UST had two glorious chances to break the deadlock towards the end of the game when Juan Villanueva’s freekick found Jayson Rafol inside the box, who sent the ball over the crossbar. The last chance came in the 88th minute when a header from a Growling Tiger went straight at the hands of Almonte.
“Today would be the first day of try-outs for the next season,” Smit shared after the game. He also emphasized that the fans would probably see a different lineup next year and he still does not have a list of players who will be retained. “This team, as of now, is officially disbanded. So everybody starts from scratch again.”