MANILA, Philippines – Rookie Kyle Magdato struck late in the first half to lift University of the Philippines (UP) to a 1-0 win over Far Eastern University (FEU) in the UAAP Season 78 men’s football tournament Thursday at the Moro Lorenzo Field.
The loss ended FEU’s two-year reign as kings of UAAP football.
After Feb Baya’s cross was punched away by FEU keeper Ray Joyel, Magdato was there for the rebound which turned to be the winning moment for the Fighting Maroons.
With 30 points, UP has now secured the top ranking, while giving University of Santo Tomas (UST) and Ateneo de Manila University a free ride to the semi-finals, which starts on April 28 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Parading a young but steady squad, the Maroons advanced to the Final Four even after losing ace striker Jinggoy Valmayor to graduation at the end of last season.
“Of course, Jinggoy has been a very instrumental part of our campaign in the last five years. He has scored goals for us,” said Coach Anto Gonzalez.
“But I think this group, in terms of work ethic, in terms of fight and stability, is as strong as it gets. Per position, we covered everything,” he added.
The Maroons have also achieved a clean sheet for the sixth straight match, living up to their billing as the league’s best defensive side.
“That is always been our philosophy, everything starts with defense. Our goals haven’t really come really very often sa amin. Pero in terms of controlling the game and securing the backline, nandoon kami,” said Gonzales.
In the second game, Gelo Diamante scored twice in the first half and De La Salle University overpowered UST, 4-0, to finish second in the league table with 29 points.
“The competition is getting better and better,” La Salle coach Hans Smit said. “I have never seen this competition, with six teams vying for the semifinals spots up to the last week. It has been a good season. I’m happy for the UAAP.”
Despite being level with Ateneo on points with 25, UST dropped to fourth due to inferior goal difference.
Thus, the Growling Tigers will face the Fighting Maroons in the knockout semi-finals for the second time in three years, while the Green Archers will play the Blue Eagles in a rematch of last season’s Final Four.
Meanwhile, FEU will miss the Final 4 for the first time since 2012, after finishing in fifth place with 24 points.
The Tamaraws crumbled late in the second round with Coach Kim Chul Su’s side feeling the absence of injured midfielder Arnel Amita, while rookie striker Rico Andes – the league’s leading scorer in the first round – found himself marked in the second round.
FEU’s elimination in the men’s division came just a few days after its women’s squad was also dethroned.
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