The promising University of the East Red Warriors bled and was rewarded with a hard-fought third consecutive victory, 1-0, over the Adamson University Soaring Falcons, Sunday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The match served as the swan song of the two schools in the season, at least in terms of athletic events.
The Recto-based squad started on the right foot, despite a makeshift lineup. The Warriors were missing six players both on injuries and cards.
First-year head coach Fitch Arboleda has thus needed to improvise. He shared, “Kung napansin niyo, yung starting 11 ko mga substitutes. Gusto ko rin silang bigyan ng playing time.”
Nonetheless, Adamson was able to hold and stifle the Warriors’ repeated attacks anchored on goalkeeper Carl Viray. Moreover, the latter also failed to finish in the final third, as the first half ended goalless.
The Falcons had their share of chances, particularly in set pieces, but UE’s rookie keeper Frank Rieza stopped such attacks.
Despite the unproductive start from the Red Warriors, Arboleda still praised his bench. “Sobrang ganda nung first half kaya late ko na rin silang kinuha. Hindi lang talaga sila nakaka-convert,” he said.
The goalless encounter prompted the former UE stalwart to put in his usual starters Mar Diano and Jasper Absalon into the pitch with 15 minutes left.
The decision paid off as the Red and White plucked a goal at the 82nd minute. Absalon found Bon Opeña lurking inside the box, and the latter blasted it to the roof of the goal for the winner.
Arboleda was proud of how his wards changed to provide a better performance this year. He shared, “Sa team talaga marami akong binago. Yung sa vices ng kids, at the same time yung attitude namin.”
Perhaps, however, the biggest factor to their turnaround is their unity. “Buo kamo this season. Walang sabog-sabog. Kung titignan mo sila, nagkakasundo sila,” the Azkal said.
The Red Warriors ended the season with 14 points off four wins. On the other hand, the Soaring Falcons finished with three points.