La Salle ousts UP to mark UAAP Men’s Football Finals return

The De La Salle University Men’s Football Team became the first team to enter the UAAP Men’s Football Finals after they overcame their counterparts from the University of the Philippines, 2-1, in a thrilling semifinal duel Wednesday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Rookies Jovan Marfiga and Shanden Vergara rose to the occasion by providing the goals to send DLSU back to their first finals appearance in four years.

It was an encouraging start by the Lasallians who hit the ground running. Freshman Miko Umilin produced two chances to test the UP defense. It did not change the score but it has certainly made the young DLSU team believe that they can cause their opponents plenty of problems.

In the 19th minute, Umilin made a dazzling run from just outside of the DLSU penalty area until the middle part of the UP half where he was fouled. Jed Diamante then made the most of the opportunity by sending a good ball towards the box. Amongst a mix of white and maroon shirts, it was Marfiga who got the vital touch. The defender’s header went in to put the Archers in front.

Going behind, the Maroons were roaring to respond as soon as possible. They have yet to play a UAAP Season 81 game without scoring so it would not come as a shock that they would eventually score. With plenty of time remaining, the experienced team coached by Anto Gonzales have been here before and have shown multiple times this season that they can go behind and make a result out of it.

As they aimed to level the scores before halftime, UP wrested control of possession and started to expose gaps in the La Salle defense. With seven minutes left before halftime, UP got what they were looking for through Kintaro Miyagi’s finish from point-blank range. Because of that, there was nothing to separate both sides at the half.

A cagey affair ensued in the second half as neither team wanted to give the other an inch. Tensions were rising to a point when a scuffle between Miyagi and Clarence Limchiko added extra spice to the already fiery duel. Interestingly, Vergara was involved in the altercation but escaped punishment while the two players were booked for their shenanigans.

Vergara’s presence was not only bothering the UP players on the field as it also drew ire from some of their supporters. Receiving insults from them, the rookie out of De La Salle Zobel found the best way to drown their noise – score.

As the match entered its 77th minute, La Salle’s Filipino-Saudi midfielder Mohamed Almohijili delivered a probing ball that went over Miggy Clariño’s head. It then landed right in front of the freshman forward who gathered enough composure to poke the ball past Anton Yared.

The outcome was far from secured as the Maroons took 17 minutes to respond to La Salle’s opening goal. Expectedly, UP became more aggressive as their season began to fade with each passing minute.

To prevent their opponents from scoring, the Archers defended in numbers and gave UP a hard time in finding a good look at Franz Brosoto’s goal. It proved too be effective because unlike in the first half, La Salle held firm as the final whistle confirmed their place in the last dance.

They now await the winner of Ateneo and FEU who as of writing are battling for the other final spot. The winner-take-all affair will take place on Thursday, May 16, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.