Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ateneo Men's Football Match 4: Slip Sliding Away

Slip Sliding Away
Ateneo 0 vs. UP 1
By rick Olivares

January 29, 2009
Erenchun Field
The Ateneo Men’s Football Team lost its third match in four games; this time to league-leading UP 1-nil. Even worse, this is the first time the team has been at the bottom of the standings since Ompong Merida took over in the mid-1990’s. The lowest they’ve previously placed was fifth. Thus far, they’ve been shut out in three of their last four matches and have only scored once.

While no team stays on top forever, the decline of the Blue Booters is perplexing. They played well in the pre-season giving observers a perception that the disappoint loss in last year’s finals is but a memory and they would once more challenge with the arrival of blue chip rookies. Instead now they wish they had the kind of striking power they had from last year even from a supposedly weaker line up.

Against the Maroons, they only had one shot on goal in the second half. And it was off a set piece and Luigi Meer’s 40-footer missed by two inches.

In a game where Ateneo needed to break out like gangbusters, they started out slow and with hardly any fire. Their sleek passing game, that once begat a bushel of goals has been disjointed. The short and long game is in disarray. If the previous question was, “Who will score – Gerard Cancio, Anton Amistoso, James Arco, or Gino Tongson?” Now it’s, “When will they score?”

Needing a massive overdose of energy to match up with the Maroons who even at the pre-season were tourney favorites, the Blue Booters came out flat.

Within the game’s first three minutes, UP’s Andrei Mercader almost scored as he beat Ateneo defender Paul Cheng got inside the box and uncorked a powerful shot that went wide.

Ateneo was quick to counter as Miko Manglapus’ set piece from some 50 feet out sailed over the cross bar. Sadly, the only true scoring chances were from free kicks.

From there on, UP stepped up its attack. With Alvin Perez marking the Maroons’ Andoni Santos well, it was up to Keith Mordeno and Steve Permanes to try their luck against the Ateneo defense.

A vicious shot by Permanes was stopped by Ateneo keeper Joel Faustino. But the recoil from the shot was powerful and the ball broke free and threatened to roll in for an own goal. This time Faustino was quick enough to react as he reached out and grabbed the ball before it could cross the line.

With Ateneo unable to mount any serious threat, UP gained momentum. And in the 66th minute, another ball that wasn’t cleared properly (the clearance grazed off the back of Fred Ozaeta) and went to Santos who was a few feet outside the box. Thinking that he’d advance it further, the Ateneo defenders froze. That was all the UP striker needed as he sent a powerful shot that blew past Faustino for the marginal score.

There was still another stark contrast in the game’s aftermath. Minutes after the final whistle, with both teams ensconced in their own sides of the field, after the Blue Booters got over the shock (there were no tears this time unlike the previous ones), they were laughing, joking, and eating their spaghetti recovery meal. The UP team under new coach Frank Muescan stretched for a few minutes then sat and listened to the coaching staff dissect their game. The players sat quietly and listened. It was as if they were the ones that lost.

But if you listen to their team closely, their silence and the look in their eyes says a lot about their focus which they’ve talked about for the last few months.

It’s to contend for a championship berth.

Match Statistics
Shots on goal
Ateneo 5 (2)
UP 13 (7)

Ateneo 1
UP 4

Ateneo 8
UP 8

Yellow Cards
Ateneo 1
UP 3

Ateneo 0
UP 3

Ateneo 6
UP 2

Postscript: Someone was asking me if I thought it was over for the football team this year. My answer was, they have to win all their remaining matches with no draws. And they have to score goals because the goal difference could be a tie-breaker since only the top two teams play for the championship. It can be done. But can they do it? If they continue the way they play then it could be all over by Sunday when they face FEU. The best then is to finish the tourney strong and have fun.

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