Almost had it. Upstart La Salle settles for 2nd place in UAAP Men’s Football

The UAAP Men’s Football Championship remains elusive to the DLSU Men’s Football Team as they suffered a heartbreaking extra time defeat to Ateneo, 2-1, in the Season 81 Final staged Thursday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

In a pulsating match, both teams had plenty of opportunities to open the scoring in the first half. However, none of those were converted before the break. As time went by, players were more adventurous in pursuing the opening goal many believe could serve as the clinching goal as well.

La Salle came close twice through Jed Diamante and Paeng Siggaoat. In a well-designed counter attacking play, the skipper dragged his attempt just inches past the post. Moments later, Siggaoat’s speculative effort went over Ateneo goalkeeper Jae Arcilla but it failed to sneak below the crossbar which it hit instead.

Gaining momentum, DLSU’s perseverance was rewarded when Mohamed Almohijili put La Salle in front. The rookie finished with composure to give La Salle a lead that nearly proved enough to end the almost-two-decades-long UAAP Men’s Football title drought in Taft.

Unfortunately, Ateneo still had enough time to force an extension. A UAAP Champion already, Jarvey Gayoso refused to let his team’s rivals win one over them as his equalizer in second half added time extended the game for another 30 minutes.

It is in that period when Ateneo made their championship experience count. Midway through first half added time, Blue Eagles captain Julian Roxas rose the highest to head the ball past Franz Brosoto in the La Salle goal.

Down in extra time, DLSU did not give up. The boys kept pushing forward while their opponents grew content in wasting time. In the end, La Salle could not find a way to give themselves a chance to take the game to a penalty shootout at the very least. Time went by quickly for them and when the referee blew the final whistle, the boys in green fell to their feet and to their fiercest rivals.

On the bright side, La Salle’s spectacular season ends with a silver medal in each team member’s necks and some hardware as well for notable individuals. Yoshi Koizumi won the Best Defender award while Diamante received the Best midfielder honours. In his debut season, Shanden Vergara took home the Rookie of the Year award.

These awards would do for now. Next season, the quest for the most important trophy shall begin again. That time, La Salle would only look to do better.