After five consecutive losses, the De La Salle University Green Archers recorded their second win of the season by avenging their first round loss to the Adamson University Soaring Falcons in a 2-0 win, Thursday evening at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field in Katipunan, Quezon City.
Failing to score in the first half, it was beginning to look like more of the same for La Salle. Yet they did not allow the errors of the past to haunt them anew, as goals from Nicko Villacin and Jed Diamante in the second half led to an important win in the Green Archers’ season.
“Great team effort from start to finish. Even from training we’re all positive, we’re all on the same page, we’re all thinking on the same page, we all worked together. It showed in this game,” DLSU captain Iñigo Gonzales assessed of their performance after the game.
Now, the Green Archers are in solo sixth place and are just two points behind fourth-placed teams National University and University of Santo Tomas, who have 10 each after eight games. The Soaring Falcons remain at the bottom with just three points to show.
As the skipper had mentioned, La Salle controlled the flow of the game. They generated wave after wave of dangerous attacks but vitally lacked the finishing needed to convert chances into goals.
Jose Montelibano, Yoshi Koizumi, and Gonzales spearheaded the attack for the Green Archers, but their efforts came to naught. The absence of killer instincts in front of goal was detrimental to their cause of not just avenging their first round loss to the Soaring Falcons, but of securing only their second win of the season.
The closest the La Sallians came before halftime was in the 24th minute, when Diamante’s free kick was headed by Montelibano, but his attempt could only strike the post. Garcia then pounced on the rebound with the goal gaping in front of him. Unluckily, the rookie couldn’t find his balance and scuffed the shot over in the process.
Moments before, Adamson could consider themselves lucky as a questionable Viray pass hit Montelibano and almost set up Gonzales for a easy shot on goal. Fortunately for him, the ball was cleared just before the La Salle captain could make contact with the ball.
About the lackadaisical finishing, Gonzales admitted there is still plenty for them to improve on and, instead of crying over spilled milk, chose to highlight their attitude in the game.
“I can’t stress enough how we have to think positive especially from how we start training. We really prepared for this game. We didn’t lose sight of what our objective was and we know the this round is the most important as this will define our season,” he remarked.
Though they were on the back foot for much of the first half, the Soaring Falcons were not without chances of their own. Twins Bless and Brian Jumo tested Kerbi Almonte in the La Salle goal later in the half, producing a shot each that Almonte comfortably held.
At halftime, the score stayed level, much to Adamson’s satisfaction as they had dodged going behind against an aggressive DLSU team.
It was more of the same early in the second half, as La Salle continued to pressure the stubborn Adamson defense. The Soaring Falcons displayed good organization behind the ball, meaning chances for the Archers to claim the lead came via set piece opportunities.
One of those came in the 53rd minute when Koizumi pumped the free kick on target, an effort Adamson keeper Viray was equal to. Then in the 67th minute, La Salle found what they were looking for, after defender Villacin rose above everyone else to guide Diamante’s free kick into the back of the net.
It was not surprising then that they came close once more through another free kick teed up by Diamante with 10 minutes left in the game. This time around, it was Cristian Zubiri who got his head on the ball. The substitute’s effort, unlike Villacin’s, was off the mark.
Down the other side of the pitch, Adamson conjured a rare chance on goal when substitute Ejike Ugwoke, the Soaring Falcons’ hero of the last meeting between the two teams, forced a save from Almonte after he made room for himself to shoot inside the box. It would have not counted nonetheless, as he was adjudged to have received the ball from an offside position.
Towards the end, La Salle still had time to put the game beyond reach and did so through a spectacular deflected half volley by Diamante from long range in the fourth minute of added time, putting the icing on the cake in what could be a pivotal win for coach Hans Smit’s team.
The veteran mentor deflected credit to his coaching staff, who had prepared the team entering the second round. He also expressed satisfaction with the manner the boys played against a team that had defeated them last time around. “You can see the intensity was there but we still lack the finishing but it’s a good start to the second round. All they need to do is just focus on their finishing now,” Smit observed.
As for Gonzales, this is a manifestation of the team’s true abilities as they stay alive in the race for a Final Four spot. “I find this result as an eye-opener that we’re not out and we have it in us. We just have to show it and bring it in the game,” he figured.
DLSU now have a chance to build a winning run when they meet the University of the East Red Warriors, the only team they had beaten last round, on Sunday. As for Adamson, they face a grueling battle against University of Santo Tomas on the same day for their second win this season. Both games will be at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.