by David Tristan Yumol
Fresh from dethroning the defending champions in their final elimination match, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons asserted its leadership in the league by drubbing University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, 3-0, in the semifinals of the UAAP Season 78 men’s football tournament Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
With their victory, the Fighting Maroons advanced to their sixth finals appearance for the past eight years.
It was also the seventh straight match this season that UP scored a clean sheet, or leaving their opponents scoreless in their match-up, dating back to the elimination round.
Rookie Kyle Magdato prevented two UST defenders to score the first goal from the left side of the turf during the 24th minute.
Magdato also scored the lone goal for the Maroons in their 1-0 victory against Season 77 champions Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws last April 21.
That win by UP slammed the Final Four hopes of FEU, with the latter finishing fifth in the team standings with 24 points. It was only one point behind fourth-seeded UST, who finished with 25 points.
Kintaro Miyagi pumped up the crowd in the 37th minute by scoring another goal off a Daniel Gadia assist to give the Diliman-based booters a comfortable lead going into halftime.
Magdato and team captain Gadia failed to widen their lead in the second half as their open shots failed to connect into the box.
However, an open pass to reserve Arvin Resuma in the 91st minute time sealed the win for UP as he passed by UST goalie Zaldy Abraham for the team’s third goal.
Even though he is a rookie, Magdato said that his confidence was high going into this match.
“I kept my composure and chose the right target to score that goal. Our training is my battleground and it really helped me to play well in every match that we had,” he said.
On the other hand, UP head coach Anto Gonzales credited his boys for playing their hearts out in this game against the Espana-based booters.
“The younger players really played great in this game. The backline is also effective in this match. Timely assists made by Gadia are also noticeable. I hope we can maintain this come championship time,” Gonzales noted.
With this win, the Maroons erased their underperforming matches against the Tigers during the elimination round.
UST defeated UP, 1-0, in their first-round encounter last March 10 at the Moro Lorenzo Field. Their second round match ended with a draw, 3-3, last March 13 at the McKinley Hill Stadium.
The Maroons finished as the top team in the elimination round after 14 games, accumulating 30 points. They won nine matches, three games with a draw, and lost two bouts.
UP will face Ateneo de Manila University in the finals.
Meanwhile, the UP women’s football team got an automatic ticket in the finals after finishing second in the eliminations.
The Lady Maroons garnered 14 points, with four wins and two each from draws and losses.
They will face the top-seeded De La Salle University Lady Archers, who got 20 points, in the championship round.
Only five out of the eight UAAP member schools competed in this year’s football tournament for women.