by Adrian Taningco
Same teams. Same stage. Same result: another UP championship.
The University of the Philippines successfully defended its UAAP football championship, narrowly edging rival University of Santo Tomas 1-0 in the final Sunday at the Ateneo University.
Sophomore striker Jinggoy Valmayor’s strike at the hour mark was enough for the Maroons to once again deny the Tigers, whom they also bested for last season’s crown.
Valmayor, who also scored the decisive goal against UST in last season’s final, broke the deadlock after a beautiful interplay with fellow forward Jay Eusebio for the goal. After receiving the ball, Eusebio delivered a perfect through back to his strike partner, who supplied an equally precise finish.
With five minutes remaining, Valmayor almost returned the favor, delivered an in-swinging free kick which was met by Eusebio’s head. His on-target header would’ve put the game to bed had it not been for the UST goalkeeper’s diving save.
The Tigers, spearheaded by national team member striker Ojay Clarino, searched frantically for an equalizer, but failed to break the vaunted UP backline. UP conceded only a single goal the entire season.
After the final whistle, UP’s coach was all praise for its achievements this season.
“I’m just very thankful to have this group of young boys,” gushed Coach Anto Gonzales, who won his third title with the Maroons. “They were steadfast in their belief. They were willing to make sacrifices to improve.”
Coach Anto also gave a deserved tribute to their defense’s superb performance.
“The target was no goals conceded, but UE was able to score one goal, but still, it’s a great defense. The backline (Deo Seguinal, Juan Miguel Roy, Allen Serna and Raymark Fernandez) played their best year this year, all of them together.”
UP entered the game with a twice-to-beat advantage after finishing the elimination round on top of the standings with 5-5-0 win-draw-loss card, garnering tournament-high 20 points. The championship is the already the second for the Diliman-based booters in four years.
The final spells the end of the college careers of eight Maroons, including Eusebio, Seguinal, Roy, Nii Aryee Ayi, who was voted the tournament’s Best Midfielder and team captain Nathan Octavio, the Most Valuable Player awardee. But despite major personnel losses, UP’s future may still be bright.
“Sa mga natitra, marami pa namang potential dito. Kailangan lang ng tamang training.Hopefully may makuha ring bago para makadagdag sa galing ng team,” said UP defender Miguel Roy.[nggallery id=50]
Photos by Gian Suyat