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, February 1, 2013

Ateneo's 89th minute goal against FEU keeps them atop the UAAP Men's Football standings

A lesson on composure
Down a goal. Down a man. Yet somehow, Ateneo isn’t the one in trouble and they stun FEU with a late goal to stay atop the UAAP Men’s Football standings.
by rick olivares

Games are won because of different factors – (in no particular order) talent, heart, intimidation, breaks of the game, experience, deep benches, excellent coaching, adjustments on the fly, leadership, and of course, there’s this thing called ‘focus’ or ‘composure’.

I cannot for the life of me understand coaches (once more I am not referring to anyone in particular but should one feel he is being alluded to then perhaps he/she is guilty) who overcoach; who shout on every possession as if people are robots with every play and trick in the playbook hardwired into their system. Actually, you don’t have one coach – you have about a dozen of them, teammates included. Sometimes when the halftime break comes, you are not sure if you want to go to the bench or wish the game was ongoing. All the noise can be distracting. If you were ever a player before, you do what you can to tune out the coach and teammate who yell as if yelling were going out of style.

And that brings me to the second round meeting between Ateneo and FEU.

FEU’s Eric Giganto put the Tamaraws ahead in the 12th minute with a nifty shot off a cross and lay off inside the box, the Ateneo Men’s Football Team stepped on the panic pedal.

It is never easy to be down a goal more so two. More often than not, you switch to Plan B – assuming you have one – to get your game going. The Blue Booters really couldn’t mount any serious offense – the first touch was bad, they didn’t win too many first balls, and cleared the ball with no sense of direction or for quick counters. In short, they played at a quick pace, just like the Tamaraws like it.

The Blue Booters do not have the ball-handling wizards that FEU has. They do not have the players who are quick to fill in the spaces for a forward pass or a cross.

When you are being pressed you tend to make hasty decisions on the ball. If you step up the offensive and threaten more, opponents will be less willing to commit players to attacks.

What Ateneo did was to organize the attack better and to send the midfield up high (in a 4-4-2 formation) for support. When on defense, there was always a stopper in the midfield (as FEU likes in central mid play) to track back immediately. It was just as important to hold FEU and not concede another goal.

Upon the resumption of the game, Ateneo took the game to FEU and that resulted in several scoring chances right away. That as expected, forced the Tamaraws to leave a few players behind. FEU wasn’t fully able to regain control of the game as the Blue Booters were more composed (although the finish could use some real quality).

Even as freshman center mid Eric Figueroa was sent off with a straight red card leaving Ateneo with 10 players on the field, the offensive did not abate one iota. Val Calvo who usually plays up front stayed in a holding midfield position then when the opportunity presented itself, he did as instructed which is to link up with the attack.

Incredibly, FEU wasn’t able to take advantage of their manpower advantage. Maybe in stoppage time but not much during the second half.

In the 89th minute, Mikko Mabanag launched a cross from the deep right side. All match long, the crosses were either long or the attackers failed to head or volley the ball in. You know what they say about the law of averages. Carlo Liay rose about his defender to head it past keeper Michael Menzi for the equalizer.

With both La Salle and UP praying for an Ateneo loss to be able to inch closer to the top two seeds, Ateneo managed to stave off their first loss with a massive 1-1 draw.

The Blue Booters conceded their second goal but once more denied striker Jon Melliza an opportunity to find the back of the net. Melliza has scored against every team this season save for Ateneo.

The blue and whites stayed atop the UAAP standings with a 7-3-0 record that gave them 24 points. FEU stayed behind by two points, with 22, staying just a head above La Salle that dusted off NU on the final match of the day. UP ousted UST from championship contention for the first time in four years.

While the final four cast is complete, the placing or seeding is not.


During the halftime break, right before the players reentered the field, I had a brief chat with three Blue Booters. I reminded them about leading by example and maintaining one’s composure in the face of FEU’s attack. One of them got entangled with a FEU player and rightfully should have been carded for his second motion. He escaped it and it was crucial. I told him afterwards that the implications of the game would have bearing on the next few matches. Retaliation doesn’t prove anything. It’s keeping a cool head to be able to make better decisions with the ball. It’s not exactly a chewing out but more of constructive criticism. Hopefully, this is well learned.

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