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.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ateneo Men's Football Match 2: A Missed Opportunity

A Missed Opportunity and a Key Line-up Change
Ateneo 0 vs. UST 0

by rick Olivares

January 21, 2009
Erenchun Field
Ateneo De Manila University
It was only a couple of hours before kick off that Joel Faustino found out he was the starting keeper for the remainder of the football season. Didn’t the tournament just start four days ago?

Four days after one of the most infamous defensive lapses in Ateneo football history, the goal keeper was once more in the hot seat.

RS Mantos the team’s starting keeper the past three years was shelved on account of his academics wasting a year of eligibility and putting a crimp on the Ateneo Men’s Football Team’s title aspirations.

If Faustino, the freshman who was the Ateneo high school team’s keeper last year, was nervous he tried not to show it. “Yeah, man. I am. A little,” he said the gulp in his throat the only thing that gave away his nervousness.

Within three minutes, the frosh was put to the test as UST had the first scoring opportunity of the game. The Tigers’ Marvin Barquin sent the ball curling towards the goal and at that moment you could hear a pin drop.

As the Tigers’ powerfully built winger David Basa rose up for a header with Alvin Perez closely marking him, Faustino jumped up and punched the ball out. Migs Tuason cleared the ball from the danger zone as Merida nodded approvingly from the sidelines.

A few minutes later, perhaps flushed with confidence, the Ateneo keeper rushed out as Derrick Candelaria challenged an attacking Joel Bones just outside the box. An irate Merida yelled, “Wag ka muna lalabas meron ka pang depensa.”

The Blues started a few of its second unit opting to preserve Anton Amistoso, Gerard Cancio, and Paul Cheng for a second half charge that would hopefully give them fresh legs for the attack. With Mantos gone for the season, Blue Booters' assistant coach Bob Manlulo said that “our best defense would be a good old-fashioned offense.”

As opposed to their opening day match, Ateneo burst out of the gates with Kurt Alvarez and Gino Tongson leading the charge.

Miko Manglapus, getting his first start, played well at defensive midfield as he was able to help out Gab Siojo and Jolo Peralta in setting up the offense.

But it was no easy feat as UST in spite of starting six rookies hardly gave any ground.

There were four chances for Ateneo to score with the best opportunity a coach’s delight. Fred Ozaeta stole the ball from the Tigers’ Yannick Tuason that Jolo Peralta for the quick counter.

As the diamond formed around the pitch, Peralta found Gab Siojo in the middle who lofted it over to a cutting Alvarez whose shot went wide.

Ateneo had firmly controlled the first half and had numerous chances to score. But it was their inability to finish. “One goal will change the complexion of the game,” underscored Merida at the half.

Sensing the minutes slipping away as Ateneo was unable to break UST’s back four, the key starters were sent into the fray. Unfortunately, UST tightened up its 4-4-2 formation and clogged up the midfield where they immediately put a man on Siojo or Peralta to slow down the attack. It proved to be a sound tactic for it forced Alvarez to pick up the ball somewhere in the midfield where he’s not as adept as a playmaker.

The relative unfamiliarity of the Ateneo freshmen to the system sometimes saw the others slow to fill in the gaps that would form the triangle formations crucial to advancing the ball and getting off a shot.

With the pressure mounting to score a goal and pull abreast of the opening day winners (in the first match of the day UE and FEU battled to a scoreless draw and at he same time as the Ateneo match, UP and DLSU ended 90 minutes of play also with a goal drought), it was up to the Blue Booters’ defense to lead the counter.

After Fred Ozaeta, at the apex of Ateneo’s defense, took away the ball UST’s Dietrik Wieneke, Candelaria sent a long ball towards Amistoso who had beaten his guard. But the ball was a little long as it landed a foot away from him.

A few minutes later, another quick counter found Cancio beating his man but his goal was waved off because of an offside call.

But the attempts were few and far in between as UST switched to a stopper-sweeper defense.

With 12 minutes left in the game, UST midfielder Mario ClariƱo struck his side’s fifth corner kick from the right side. Faustino caught it squarely – a textbook keeper’s way of snaring the ball with the body firmly behind for control. But he bobbled it for a second that it hit the side post before he cradled it like a newborn baby. He winked at Perez, "Relax lang. I got this covered."

The coaching staff went from half applause to nearly getting out of their seats as heart rates spiked up for a second.

With the precious seconds ticking away two minutes into injury time, the Blue Booters had one last attempt as Siojo volleyed from far out in the box but the ball went straight to Arboleda as the final whistle sounded of a scoreless draw.

It was a far better showing than the game versus UE but the immediate concern was the build up to the offense and their finishing. Their defense held in the face of a spirited UST attack but how long if the scoring drought continues? And with La Salle up on Sunday, every match is slowly becoming a must-win situation.

After the game, Joel Faustino received hearty handshakes from everyone. “Nervous?” someone asked.

He shook his head while gulping down some water. But some of it trickled down and doused his hands and chest. He smiled. “We’ll do better.”

Match Stats
Shots (on goal)
Ateneo 10 (6)
UST 13 (6)

Ateneo (7)
UST (9)

Corner Kicks
Ateneo (4)
UST (5)

Ateneo (2)
UST (1)

Ateneo (10)
UST (6)

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