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 22, 2013

UAAP Men's Football Finals: Ateneo’s goalkeepers save the day

Ateneo goalkeeper Nick O'Donnell celebrates his penalty killing exploits.
Ateneo’s goalkeepers save the day
Ateneo vs. UP
1-1  (fulltime) 4-3 in penalties

February 21, 2013
Moro Lorenzo Field
Ateneo de Manila University

It oft happens in football that a goalkeeper saves or even wins the day for his side but for two keepers to have a hand or even a foot in it?

Ah, here’s how it went down.

Ateneo started out well. They had some early chances. After a near scoring opportunity inside the UP box in the 21st minute where Ateneo Blue Booter Carlo Liay had his shot blocked by a UP defender, the momentum swung the Fighting Maroons’ way.

The two-time defending champions were minus striker Jinggoy Valmayor who was out for Game One of the Season 75 UAAP Men’s Football Finals on account of two yellow cards but in his absence, other players stepped up – Vincent Karl Aguilar, Michael Simms, and their defense that stopped several shots inside the box. That’s equal parts championship experience and the quality of their players that even if they had lost the core of their title teams over the years the Maroons can still bring it.

Five minutes after Liay’s attempt, UP defender Raymark Fernandez nearly sneaked in a header. That was followed up by a throughball slipped past the suddenly slow-footed Ateneo defense for Simms but Blue Eagle keeper Nick O’Donnell was quick to rush out and scoop the ball out of harm’s way.

In a precursor to the opening goal, Daniel Gadia managed to turn past Ateneo defender Jico Noel on the right goalline edge. Finding himself free, Gadia was able to race down the line and attempt a shot at the far post that missed by inches.

Finally in the 33rd minute, Gadia pulled the same trick around Migs Tuazon and fired from nearly the same position. This time it was stopped by the Ateneo defense. When Val Calvo tried to clear the ball, it hit Aguilar who was inside the box. The UP forward merely sidestepped and slotted the ball past O’Donnell’s whose line of sight was obscured by Calvo. One-nil to UP in the 37th minute.

It was Ateneo’s worst nightmare. The team seemingly affected by the electric finals atmosphere with over 3,000 fans in attendance, their defense two steps slower and their attack in shambles. And UP’s confidence was soaring.

At the start of the second half, Yu Murayama came on.

At the start of the season, Murayama alternated with O’Donnell at goal every other game. Come the second half of the season, O’Donnell became the regular starter after a stunning 2-0 loss to La Salle with Murayama at goal. When Yu was subbed out of that match, he was in tears. He would not tend the nets the e\rest of the second round although he would sometimes come in as a field player.

Nursing a slight injury, Yu came on for Jacobo Lorenzo who played his first game since a hamstring injury sidelined him several weeks ago. Murayama looked slow and if not also out of sync. Suddenly, it looked like a bad substitution.

UP continued its assault with Nathan de Guzman missing on a bicycle kick and Niño Muros and Gadia nearly scoring on a two-touch pass play.

In the 55th minute, suddenly the tide turned as Ateneo finally got its midfield engines going. Mikko Mabanag threatened twice on the left flank but failed to make the proper pass.

A header by Liay off a free kick by Jico Noel went straight to UP keeper Ace Villanueva. A Calvo volley from 25 yards out looked good but veered right.

Just when Ateneo seemed to get going, they lost Noel to a pair of yellow cards meriting his sending off. Blue Booters head coach JP Merida dropped midfielder Eric Figueroa to the left back position while moving Tuazon inwards. Then Chris Sumulong entered the match and immediately made his presence felt with tough play on the right wing.

In the 82nd minute, Sumulong stole the ball off Albert Yatco and he quickly raced down the line with Nathan De Guzman giving chase. Sumulong managed to cross the ball that drifted over Calvo and a UP defender.

But Murayama covered the second ball and he headed it in past Villanueva for a stunning equalizer in the 83rd minute.

Even as the match went into extra periods, Ateneo didn’t falter even as right back Enzo Bonoan went out with cramps and Calvo fighting it off. Incredibly, even down to 10 men, they kept the pressure on UP that never got back in the thick of things.

Once in the deciding penalty shootout (Ateneo is 2-0 in their last two shootouts), it was O’Donnell versus former Ateneo goalkeeper Ty Caballes who came on with a little over a minute left in the extra period.

Caballes was the starting keeper when UP won the title one year ago. Now because he is graduating and only able to train three times a week, the nets have been Villanueva’s to tend. However, Caballes is still their best penalty killer. Maroons head coach Anto Gonzales attempted a late sub for Villanueva in their semifinals match against La Salle that also went into extra period. With the prospect of a shootout looming, Caballes was going in when Valmayor scored the game winner with about a minute left.

And so it was onto the shootout.

Stepping up for UP was graduating central defender Deo Segunial. O’Donnell knew where the shot was going. He got a hand on it but was unable to fully stop the ball from going in. One-nil, UP.

In a bold bold move, Merida sent frosh Eric Figueroa to take Ateneo’s spot kick. He sent the ball to Caballes’ left and the UP keeper was a second late in diving for the ball. One-all.

Up next was Fe Baya for State U. O’Donnell dived to his right but Baya sent it to his left; 2-1, UP.

Migs Tuazon also sent Caballes the wrong way to level matters at 2-2.

Simms trooped to the line for his shot and the second year midfielder from Davao sent it to the right and O’Donnell blocked it standing up.

Given a huge stop, it was up to Mabanag to give the blue and whites a massive one-penalty lead, but Caballes was up to the task as the Ateneo midfielder sent a weak shot.

Raymark Fernandez gave UP the lead once more with a well-placed shot to O’Donnell’s left as the latter dove right.

It was up to Liay for even up matters. His shot went wide left but referee Michael Barajas (correctly) ruled that Caballes went off his line before the shot, hence a re-take. Given the second opportunity, Liay converted even as Caballes got an arm on the ball.

Now it was UP’s semis hero Gabe Mendoza to give UP the lead but O’Donnell managed to block the ball with his legs on full extension.

The final shot taker was Murayama. In the penalty shooutout against La Salle, Murayama, took the first spot kick and missed. This time, he had the chance to close out Game One. He faked Caballes to his left but sent the ball right for a 4-3 win in penalties.

As the Blue Booters poured onto the field to celebrate with the team. Murayama went off for a bit alone to the other side. Overcome with emotion he simply bowed.

Along with Tuazon, he was a freshman when Ateneo last made the finals in 2008 where they seized the Game One win but lost in the next match as they were came on board a massive bundle of nerves. The years after that were like hell for the team. Murayama took a two-year sabbatical to figure out what to do before deciding to go back to school and get a diploma. And of course, to play for the football team.

It was a huge win especially against the defending champions. They celebrated on the pitch but some 10 minutes after, they tempered their giddiness knowing there was another game to play and that UP would be back in full force with Valmayor up front.

One year ago, the Ateneo Men’s Football Team finished second to the last. This year, they are just one game away from reclaiming a title they last held in 2006.

And the drama just isn’t over yet.


  1. Sorry, I'm from UP (but a former atenean; the blog was introduced to me by an old high school friend), and I may sound biased, but the referee was not consistent with the calls during the penalty kicks. You could see both keepers moving and somewhat off the line before the ball is even kicked. Why would the referee call it against Ty Caballes only? This was particularly important since that miss by Liay would have cost them the game as it was Ateneo's last kick. Oh well, it may have been an impulse call by the referee. At least there are 2 more games to play. Thanks for an accurate account of the game sir.

    1. Hi. Thanks for reading. I think there were a few bad calls but he was was mostly great during the game. The replays confirm some of them. I videod the PK shootout; the entire one. And no, the ref was spot on. And no, O'Donnell did not go off his line. In the replay it was clear Ty went out even before the kick was taken. I know the officiating mostly sucks but Thursday was good and not bad.

    2. Thank you so much for clearing that up. Looking forward to another fascinating football finals game on Sunday.

  2. "Maroons head coach Anto Gonzales attempted a late sub for Villanueva in their semifinals match against La Salle that also went into extra period. With the prospect of a shootout looming, Caballes was going in when Valmayor scored the game winner with about a minute left."

    Rick, were you referring to the Final Four vs FEU here? It was Gabe Mendoza who scored the game-winner, rendering Caballes' warming up as moot.

  3. I don't think the fans reached 3,000...... get your facts straight sir. was there during the game :)