|Blue Guards FC: Age is a state of mind as they play quality football after all these years. With Pim Daza, Mike McCloud, Butch Ledesma, Jing Fernandez, Bert Honasan, Ver Velasco and company.|
There’s life in these old blue bones
by rick olivares
Last Sunday began with a penalty shootout in the UEFA Champions League finals. Hours later and thousands of miles away, the last day of the elimination round of the second season of the Ateneo Football League ended with a shootout between the whites and the blues.
Blue Guards, the alumni team of Ateneo (and wearing white), were down 5-1 to a Puzakals team (wearing blue) that suddenly found signs of life with the addition of Joao Pajaro in the last two weeks. Just when it seemed that it was all over with some players sitting on the sidelines and smoking cigarettes (seriously!), Blue Guards launched the biggest comeback of the AFL’s second season.
While the match was a non-bearing one as the two squads were already set to meet in the semifinals in the coming week, this was all about pride. At the reset, Blue Guards moved regular goalkeeper Ver Velasco to a field position while 70-year old Jing Fernandez tended to the net. The strategem worked as Blue Guards, missing several of their workhorses, saw Velasco score with five minutes left to play to make it 6-4. Then Raul Felix headed in a fantastic cross to make it 6-5 and to send a disbelieving Puzakals on their heels. The younger team frantically tried to stave off the hard-charging Blue Guards but Fernandez was firm at goal.
With seconds left to play, Omar Arabia scored the equalizer to send the match into the decisive penalty kicks.
Into sudden death, Velasco, who had won titles both with Ateneo and UP, switched with Fernandez, but the score remained tied 3-3 heading into the fourth kicker. The previous three Blue Guards penalty takers sent Puzakals keeper Rico Feliciano diving to his left beating him each time. Thinking that Feliciano would not fall for the same trick a fourth time, Butch Ledesma scoffed his shot that went high up and straight to the Puzakals netminder who did not have to move to parry the ball. Sergio Onate made good on his PK to give the match to Puzakals.
The Blue Guards weren’t sure whether they’d feel bad or not. They topped the seniors divisions with a 4-1-1 record (earlier in the day, they piped second place Oscariz 1-0 on a beautiful finish by Pim Diaz off a Butch Ledesma assist that was sufficient enough to give them the three points for the pole position). On the other hand, they were dealt a loss that even after somewhat stung. Yet it was a magnificent comeback. Even better than Team Freedom’s comeback from the dead while playing in muddy conditions on opening day against Oscariz. Jing Fernandez summed it up nicely when he spoke for the entire team: “Not bad for an old man.”
In one of the earlier seniors matches, Oscariz’ early two-goal (from Joey Sulit and Dick Sucgang) lead was enough to hold off the spirited rally by Team Freedom who outplayed the former in the second half but only managed one goal when Aris Ladaw broke free from a tackle to pull back one. Despite carving up Oscariz’ defense with a series of deft passes, Freedom’s inability to finish and the sterling goalkeeping of Joey Gomez saw Oscariz repeat over last year’s high school jubilarians. Like the Blue Guards-Puzakals match, this one was also a preview of the semifinals match up that begins next week.
Over at the Mixed Division, B2002 piped TeamBa 4-3 with a hat trick from Raul Grapilon and goal by former UST player Pat Perlas. King Filart, Jonika Piñon, and Kat Sison scored for TeamBa.
In the Mixed Division Group A, Caf Bench kept its unbeaten slate (7-0 and one of four undefeated teams in the tournament aside from 6-0 Aria in the High School-College Division, the 6-0 Los Tontos in the Alumni 30-and-below Division, and 7-1-0 ACU2 in Group B of the Mixed Division). Caf Bench won 2-0 with Jobi Millar scoring one of the goals of the tournament. Mercado instinctively controlled a Duane Tumale cross from the right with the back of his right foot. The ball remained suspended in the air for a second and in one motion, Mercado volleyed it past the ACU2 keeper for the first score of the match. When asked if he stopped the ball on purpose, Millar smiled and said, “That was all instinct.”
Caf Bench will be facing the Roger Lastimado-led Team Popoys in the semifinals match up next week.
Goal scorers? Paolo Bediones of Psykicks scored a hat trick in a 5-2 win over Danke Schon that gave his team its third win of the season. Benj Mendoza of MyTunes scored his 21st goal of the tournament to not only lead the Mixed Fun Division but the entire AFL. Former Ateneo Blue Booter Alvin Perez who plays for Budacamp was also second to him in both categories with 18 goals.
|The shin guard-less Celine Lopez of the undefeated Caf Bench vs ACU2. Caf Bench won 2-0.|
Hopefully, by next week we will have a preview of the semis match ups.