by Edison Ubaldo
Close but no cigar. Not once, not twice, but thrice.
The University of the Philippines squandered a 1-0 halftime lead and succumbed to a 3-4 loss on penalties against Ateneo de Manila University in Game 1 of the best-of-three series of the UAAP Season 75 Men’s Football Finals Friday at the Ateneo pitch.
The Eagles continued their mastery of the Maroons, whom they defeated 1-0 and 2-1 in the elimination round. Striker Yu Murayama saved the day twice by converting a timely counter-attack in the 83rd minute to a game-tying goal and securing the win by scoring the final penalty kick of the shootout.
Rookie Vincent Aguilar opened the flood gates for UP as he found the back of the net in the 33rd minute.
Despite missing striker and leading scorer Gerardo Valmayor due to accumulated yellow cards in the semi-finals, UP Head Coach Anto Gonzales said the loss was not about missing one of his key players.
“It’s a matter of stepping up. I just had a couple of players who played really well sa campaign namin against FEU na hindi nagperform today,” said Coach Anto Gonzales.
With the score knotted at 1-1 after 90 minutes of jam-packed football action, UP continued to attack Ateneo’s defense garnering crucial free kicks in the first extra period but just falling short of converting their scoring chances.
The Maroons finally found a golden opportunity in the 22nd minute of extension with a nice pass from substitute Jacob Ochoa inside the box but Gabe Mendoza who was on the receiving end was called for an offside.
After going scoreless in the extension, UP and Ateneo forced the game to a penalty shoot-out with both teams respectively scoring on their first two tries.
ADMU’s Rookie Goalkeeper Nicholas O’Donnell delivered a crucial block against UP’s Michael Simms but Season 74 Goalkeeper of the year Tyron Caballes retaliated for the Fighting Maroons by executing a save of his own on Michael Mabanag’s attempt.
Raymark Fernandez then scored on UP’s fourth penalty kick but Caballes committed a violation against rookie Leo Liay’s kick. Liay’s first kick went directly out of bounds but his retake found the back of the net, 3-3.
In the ensuing play, Gabe Mendoza missed his shot while Muyarama scored the game winning goal.
Game 2 of the Battle of Katipunan is set on Sunday, February 24, 2pm at the Ateneo pitch.