The DLSU Green Booters sparked a comeback versus the UST Growling Tigers, 3-2, to open the second round of the UAAP Season 85 Men’s Football tournament in a nailbiting match earlier today, March 26, at the UP Diliman Football Pitch.
Paolo Go, Mohammad Almohjili, and Mikio Umilin each shined in the victory, masterfully carving out individual goals to turn around the match in crazy fashion.
Archie Belluga gave the team from España a fighting chance in the match with his brace. Belluga took the lead for UST twice, but it was not enough to surmount the efforts of DLSU.
Tale of the pitch
Umilin had a good attempt at the four-minute mark but failed to put them on the board. On the other side of the pitch, Belluga almost got through goalkeeper Enrico Mangaoang around the eight-minute mark but failed to penetrate the goal. This kept the momentum with UST, but the stoppage at 9:41 that occurred after the collision of Almohjili and Daniel Nartey, gave the Green Booters time to collect and regroup. However, this called for UST Captain Jhon Azares to command his Tigers forward by continuing to push the momentum.
Carlos Lozano got another look at the 12:41 mark but, again, could not score through the Jose Abada-defended goal. Around the 14:54 timestamp, the corner kick attempt by Escobar was the closest look of the Growling Tigers in the opening minutes of the game, but Mangaoang proved he was a tougher force to be reckoned with.
At the 17-minute mark, JP Bengay got swiped mid-air but brought about a head-scratcher of a call as it was called on him. The header by Nartey in the 19th minute set Escobar up for a great shot but again failed to put UST on the scoreboard. Almost a minute after, UST gave Almohjili a chance at a freekick, but Abada was there to keep the Green Booters on their cleats. At the 33:39 mark, Escobar continued to try, but the DLSU defense was just tough to come by.
After a scoreless first 40 minutes, Belluga gave the Growling Tigers their first goal courtesy of a high cross by Nartey, 1-0. Immediately at the 40th minute, the Taft-based squad almost responded with an attempt by Gabe Suarez, but Abada was even quicker to react, snuffing out any danger. Another attempt by Go failed to put Taft on the board. Instead, around the 45-minute mark, Suarez got a yellow card after tackling Nartey as he pulled ahead. The quick boot of Lozano in the third minute of extra time was a hasty attempt to even the score. Rattled, John Vincent Eduave was then called for a yellow card for tugging on Nartey at the 4:55 mark of extra time. It was the Growling Tigers in the driver’s seat entering the halftime break, 1-0.
Flashes of brilliance
DLSU pressed forward to open the second half as they peppered the UST defense with crosses and dangerous balls inside. The constant pressure from the Green and White coming out of the intermission led to a breakthrough, as a miscleared ball on a La Salle corner kick found its way to Go, who was no stranger to scoring big goals for his side. The rookie midfielder whipped out a belting first-time finish that took a slight deflection before scorching the net, tying the affair, 1-all.
UST did not take long to respond. After the La Salle backline allowed Daniel Nartey too much time in their box, the Growling Tiger slipped in a key pass across Mangaoang’s goal to a trailing Belluga, who clinically tucked in the ball to retake the lead, 2-1, at the 58’ mark. A one-two play between Anoh and Lozano at the 73rd minute mark led to a corner. In what seemed like déjà vu, Go saw another long shot line up for him from the set piece before he unfortunately skied the ball over the goalframe. The rookie was able to attempt another volley in the 75th minute, but once again sent it north of the crossbar.
The persistence of the DLSU Men’s Football Team paid off, as Almohjili’s left-footed bender coming off of a 78th minute free kick found the top left corner of the goal to level up the scoreline, 2-all. Without missing a beat, the Growling Tigers were suddenly disarmed in their own half, allowing Umilin to dribble through their ranks before belting a well placed finish to all of a sudden shift the score in favor of the Green and White, 3-2.
In the final few minutes that ensued, UST failed to rediscover their bite in the matchup. La Salle took control, holding the ball in the Growling Tigers’ half while the team from España were unable to create any clear-cut chances to equalize the affair. After a long six minutes of added time, the Green and White took the three points in a heartstopping match.
The Green Booters will look to avenge their 5-1 opening day loss to battle the UE Red Warriors, who entered the second round at the top of the table with 12 points, on Thursday, March 30, at the UP Diliman Football Pitch