The DLSU Green Booters crashed out of contention in the UAAP Season 85 Men’s Football tournament after falling short against the third-seeded FEU Tamaraws, 2-0, earlier today at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex Football Field. This put an end to the team’s journey to reach the Finals once again after their bridesmaid finish in Season 81, ending their season on a bitter note.
Searching for chances
Entering as the higher second seed with 20 points from six wins, three draws, and three losses in the elimination round, the first half was rocky for the Green Booters’ side. Despite promising early runs for Mikio Umilin and Mo Almohjili, they would come to naught after FEU’s backline denied each attack. In the absence of Enrico Mangaoang between the posts, defender JV Eduave was able to keep the sheet clean to start the match.
Unfortunately for the Green and White, the Tamaraws soon found their footing as their midfield controlled the pace and possession in the opening half. This gave the DLSU side trouble as FEU’s composed build-up ultimately resulted in a goal for Chester Pabualan off a free kick at the 28’ mark. The Green Booters now trailed, 1-0, in the first half.
La Salle would stay firm with their long ball-reliant tactics in hopes of finding their forwards in FEU’s half, but these would not result in productive chances.
Fighting until the end
DLSU came into the second half ready to fight for their lifeline in the tournament. Their early aggression led to chances for Vin Dela Cruz, Engatte Anoh, Umilin, and Manu Cruel off a corner kick, but DLSU was unable to pull back a crucial equalizer.
Exiting the final cooling break, DLSU had what seemed to be their best chance of a goal when Anoh sent a rocket of a header goalbound, but FEU’s Jetrick Fabrigas managed to neutralize the threat and keep his side up. In the final few minutes of the match, La Salle seemed to lose their wit in the midfield, giving up possession in dangerous areas several times to the eleven from Diliman.
After arriving during the middle of the match due to his flight from Cambodia—where he was representing the flag at the 32nd SEA Games just the night before—Mangaoang managed to check in for the second half of the match. The shotstopper out of De La Salle Santiago Zobel made crucial saves that kept the Green and White in the contest for much of the second half. However, it was Sherwin Basindanan’s strike off a counter-attack at the 85-minute mark that was the nail in La Salle’s coffin, 2-0.
Playing in his last year, team captain Jovan Marfiga reflects on this season’s performance now that it has come to its end. “Throughout the season, we started very slow, we lost our two games. It was very challenging. As [the] season progressed, we made a lot of changes…We stepped up [and] trained hard to reach yung goal namin, which is to reach the Final Four sana, but suddenly we lost. It’s part of the game…not all the time you’re on the top,” shared the seasoned captain.
After playing his heart out and leaving it all on the pitch, Mangaoang looks forward to the team’s next campaign with their squad’s chemistry better than ever. “We have a really good bond,” he said. “I know it’s something said really often…Moving forward to the next year, if we keep that kind of bond with each other, I think there’s a very good chance we get to the same spot where we are now and maybe get a better outcome.”
With a bronze finish in the tournament, DLSU Head Coach Alvin Ocampo expressed his gratitude toward the La Salle community, “We started our campaign with two losing games, but [the Lasallian community] never left us. So thank you to the Lasallian community and the [Office of Sports Development] for supporting the team.”