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, February 7, 2013

UAAP Football update: semis cast complete

Ateneo grabs UAAP football top seed, FEU-UP to dispute second seed
by rick olivares

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Ocampo Field, Ateneo de Manila University
Up until 2010, the de facto Division One football played in the Philippines was in the UAAP.

All the best players were there (except those that were enrolled in San Beda). It was the only football league written about (to a certain extent), it was the only one featured on television (I started that in 2006 with Solar Sports before ABS CBN picked it up) on news shows and later as a televised sport.

With the ascent of the Azkals and the subsequent focus on the UFL, the UAAP football tournament has taken a backseat. But the action is no less great.

The biggest surprise of the Season 75 tournament is the return of the Ateneo Men’s Football Team to prominence. From 1996-2006, they won four of the championships they competed for. They made one more losing finals appearance in 2008 where an FEU team bannered by Jason Cordova, Ansing Gustilo, Jake Hugo, and Jovanie Simpron took the crown.

The Blue Booters fell all the way to the lower tier of the standings in the next couple of years as UP and UST competed for the title. Ateneo was solid last year and would lose matches in the final 10 minutes of play. This year, they win in the last 10 minutes.

Yesterday, the regained the top spot after being temporarily dethroned by La Salle the other week. Ateneo never allowed NU to get in the game as they ruled the midfield with the return of previously suspended playmakers Eric Figueroa and Mikko Mabanag. They repeatedly broke down NU with their nifty passing up and down the field. They finally broke through when Val Calvo snared a forward pass by Luis Mendoza then fired at an awkward angle with his left boot to beat Hayeson Pepito for a 1-0 lead.

Calvo would later double the lead when he controlled another ball dumped over the defense. He first touch was superb and placed the ball squarely in front of him on the right side of the box. Before any of the NU defenders could relax, he booted in the goal.

Carlo Liay had a goal disallowed because of an offside call but Armand Gozali worked his ass off eluding four NU defenders with one tugging at his shirt for a couple of yards before he slammed the ball into the back of the net for a massive 3-0 win.

But Ateneo had to wait for the result of the La Salle-UP match before they could reclaim the lead and the crucial twice-to-beat advantage.

La Salle took the UAAP’s pole position last week when they dealt Ateneo its first loss of the season with a 2-0 win. The Green Booters struggled in the first round before they got their act together in the second round by beating FEU and Ateneo in succession.

Don Rabaya continued his reemergence in his final year for La Salle (he has scored in their last four matches) when he fired a goal that was eerily reminiscent of the Relan BretaƱa goal against Loyola in the latter’s match with Army in the UFL a day earlier. Rabaya noticed UP keeper Ace Villanueva a little off his line. The La Salle striker moved the ball in and was not met by any UP defender. He fired and the ball entered from the far post as La Salle celebrated their early goal.

UP struggled to find their groove as La Salle marked the attackers well. They surrounded Maroons striker Jinggoy Valmayor with three defenders all the time making it difficult for him to get a clear shot. The one time he got his powerful boot on the ball, La Salle’s defense gave him a difficult angle to shoot and it went straight to Patrick Deyto for the easy collar.

In the 36th minute, Daniel Gadia who has now established himself in the starting lineup for UP fired a perfect left cross to Valmayor who was unmarked inside the box. His one touch volley was true and the Maroons finally drew level. All match long, UP coach Anto Gonzales exhorted his top striker to drift away from Deyto and to force him to scramble from one side to another. Now he paid attention.

La Salle’s hold on the game had been broken and they went back to their passive selves as UP became more emboldened. Furthermore, they did not and never did execute their game plan with Valmayor (earning the ire of head coach Hans Smit) and no doubt probably cost them the game.

Valmayor is the type of player who prefers to get the ball and try to out dribble opponents rather than play the spaces for runs at the goal. If you know that then that means he will have to be marked closely. And that would exactly be what this fearsome striker would do late in the game – get the ball on target and push.

The outcome was crucial because a La Salle win would ensure their number one seed. A UP win meant La Salle would tumble down to third or fourth place depending on the outcome of the FEU-UST encounter to cap off the day’s triple header.

A draw between the two sides that seemed so likely with the game into its final seconds would mean FEU had a chance for a playoff with La Salle if they got a win.

But Valmayor had other plans. With time down to 30 seconds, Vincent Aguilar sent a long ball over La Salle’s three-man defense on Valmayor. All match long, he couldn’t break the zone. This time, he did. He brought the ball to the left side of the box and waited for Deyto to commit. When he did, Valmayor used his right foot to deftly flick the ball in for an incredible 2-1 victory. Seconds later, the final whistle blew sending La Salle crashing down to fourth place and a semifinals meeting with Ateneo that secured a twice-to-beat advantage.

FEU later beat an spoiler-minded UST 2-0 with second half goals from Eric Giganto and Jon Melliza to arrange a playoff for second spot with UP this coming Sunday at 2pm at the Moro Lorenzo Field in Ateneo.

The semifinals kicks off on Valentine's Day.

1 comment:

  1. kudos to Ateneo coach JP Merida. His team is the least talented, individually, among the Final Four teams and yet Ateneo topped the eliminations.