UAAP: Green Booters end the season with a heartbreaking 2-all draw against rival Blue Eagles

In their eagerly-anticipated matchup to conclude the second round of UAAP Season 86, the DLSU Green Booters tied their archrival, the ADMU Blue Eagles, 2-all, earlier tonight, May 2, at the UP Diliman Football Pitch. The draw bows La Salle out of Final Four contention, while Ateneo needed only it to advance to the semifinals against the top-seeded FEU Tamaraws.

Graduating senior Mo Almohjili and defender Paul Bengay tallied a goal each, while Ateneo’s Andy Roxas and Kofi Agyei scored for the opposing side. 

For all the marbles

In front of a UP Diliman Football Pitch painted in green and blue, the Green Booters were hungry to defeat their longtime rivals with higher stakes. This was apparent from the get-go as DLSU’s aggressive play led them to an opening-minute header by Bengay through a Christian Peñalosa corner kick—putting them ahead, 1-0.

Ateneo would start to put the pressure on shortly after, hoping to score a goal. La Salle striker Isaac Anoh stayed aggressive, though, as this was replicated by the whole team. At the ninth-minute mark, a preemptive scuffle ensued as Fernando Suarez inadvertently hit some Blue Eagles with the ball during a dead ball, showcasing the hotly-contested affair.

At this point, neither team would let up, as the pride of each squad was overflowing from every kick they made in the rivalry game. DLSU’s clearances continued to help the team’s defense, which was highlighted by an emphatic Enrico Mangaoang save at the 17th-minute mark.

Unfortunately for the Taft-based squad, Matthew Labayen’s huge save—with Mangaoang distant from the goal due to the Ateneo attack was not enough as ADMU’s Agyei raced to the ball and scored a header at the 31st-minute mark, pushing the game at 1-all.

As the Green Booters desperately sought ways to snatch the lead back, possessions would end in either goals conceded or clearances. Not even Anoh’s late-game heroics went for naught, as the first half ended with the intense match at one-goal apiece.

Pulsating Animo spirit

Playing with their season on the line, the Green-and-White heightened their intensity and strung together clutch stops to prevent the Blue Eagles from gaining dominance on the field. Their win-hungry defense bothered the Katipunan-based team until an unfortunate slip occurred in the 58th minute as ADMU’s Agyei entered the box with an opportunity to score. Heavily pressured by the DLSU backline, the 6’5 midfielder managed to maneuver his way around his defenders to find Ateneo’s Roxas on a wide-open hit, giving them a crucial lead, 2-1. 

The Green Booters continued to have no clear chances at scoring, with the Ateneans’ suffocating press earning them stops, which compelled Head Coach Alvin Ocampo to insert Mo Almohjili, Stephen Del Rosario, and Vin Dela Cruz at the 65’ mark to shake things up. With the Blue-and-White defense swarming La Salle from all angles and snuffing out Anoh’s threatening presence by triple-teaming him, it seemed like the green shirts would need a miracle to keep their Final Four dreams alive by snatching two goals in crunch time. 

As dread crept in amongst the crowd that bled green, Captain Almohjili channeled ice water in his veins to whip in a stellar strike that bounced off the right goalpost and wondrously hit the back of the net, tying the match at 2-all in the 75th minute. 

Once again, the Lasallian faithful vehemently cheered on as the Green Booters’ hopes of reaching the Final Four were renewed. Only in need of another goal to send them back to the semifinals, the Green-and-White charged with all their might in an attempt to break through the Ateneo defense, but time after time, they were denied entry. 

DLSU’s Herculean efforts in extra time continued to be thwarted, and disbelief emanated from the standing La Salle crowd. Ultimately, the Green Booters’ last-ditch attempts to score were not enough to save their season as they suffered a heartbreaking ending at the talons of the Eagles, 2-all.  

As the main orchestrator behind the Green Booters’ close run to the Final Four, Coach Ocampo detailed that although the team missed their mark, there will be much to improve on and look forward to in the upcoming season. 

With the loss of reliable veteran players such as Peñalosa, Bengay, Almohjili, Anoh, Isaac Posadas, Pomeroy Veloso, and Luis Elnas, Coach Ocampo further expressed that the team will undergo a total revamp, stating, “Everything is a process. Players will come and go. The graduating players will graduate. We’re [already preparing] for next season. La Salle won’t be having any tryouts because Season 87 will be early next season, so we are just giving them a three-week break, and we’ll see kung ilang players we’ll have to fill up.” 

In his message to the never-ending support of the Lasallian community, Coach Ocampo remains grateful, “Until the end, I’d like to say thank you for their support. It’s a good crowd today. We managed [to get] a draw, but it’s not enough to enter the semifinals. Like what we always say, matalo lang sa ibang team, ‘wag lang sa Ateneo.” 

(Like what we always say, we can lose to any other team, just not to Ateneo.)

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By Jaden Alberto

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By Koby del Rosario

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