League leaders Ateneo de Manila University put an end to De La Salle University’s final four aspirations after an emphatic 2-0 win in last night’s UAAP action at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Two goals in either half for the Blue Eagles were enough for Ateneo to clinch the number one seed in the semifinals with a game to spare at 32 points. Meanwhile, it was a game to forget for La Salle as the Green Archers will miss the trip to the Final Four for the first time since the inception of the format in 2013.
The win over La Salle was a much needed wake up a call for Ateneo, who missed forward Jarvey Gayoso due to suspension. The Blue Eagles suffered their only defeat of the season so far, 2-1, at the hands of the University of the East last Thursday.
“After the big loss last Thursday, my players performed,” said Ateneo coach Jaypee Merida. “Kinailangan talaga namin magbounce back. From the keeper to the striker, everyone performed.”
The two fierce rivals started the match slow with no action in the attacking third until the half hour mark. Nace Gonzales had the first chance for La Salle in the 28th minute but sent his shot over. Alfredo Mathay almost scored a minute later for Ateneo but instead forced a save from Kirby Almonte.
Seven minutes later, Ateneo finally took the lead. Julian Roxas needed to beat his marker twice before drilling a shot from outside the box and in towards the top corner to put the Blue Eagles ahead at the half.
“(I’m) super happy about it,” said goalscorer Roxas. “We played well, we gave it our all, we gave our hearts out, we gave that one big fight and we got the three points.”
La Salle tried to put themselves back in the game, but like in their previous games, their chances lacked the finishing touches needed. Unfortunately for La Salle, those chances and blown games came back to haunt them as Ateneo scored again right before full-time to confirm their elimination from Final Four contention.
Jordan Jarvis’ cross from the right flank found Ryan Haosen in the box, but he could only divert his effort to the post. However, substitute Sam Lim was there for the rebound, and converted the knockout blow to La Salle’s season.
In the first match, the University of Santo Tomas became the final team into the Final Four after a late 2-1 win over Far Eastern University. Mark Arranguez had the Tamaraws ahead before Renz Gumban equalized for the Golden Tigers. Kenneth Tuzon won it for UST late in the match to put the Tigers up to 20 points ahead of both National University and La Salle.
The late match saw University of the East finish their season on the back of a three-game winning streak after a 1-0 win over Adamson University. Krysler Opena won it at the 82nd minute for UE, who finished the season with 14 points.
The UAAP will take a lengthy break to make way for the Holy Week. The women’s tournament returns on April 19 at the FEU-Diliman field. La Salle and the University of the Philippines face off at 1:30 PM followed by FEU and UST. The men’s action will return on April 20 at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field. — CAL