Burly La Sallian full back Stephen del Rosario was just a footnote in the season opener of the UAAP Season 85 men’s football tournament.
Just eight minutes from the first whistle, he buried the maiden goal of the season, which must be a sign of good fortune to come.
Their opponent, previous season doormats University of the East, scored five goals later. It was the most humiliating loss for the Season 81 runner-up—their worst since UAAP football scores were kept on the written record.
Starting Season 85 with back-to-back mishaps and a -5 goal differential, the De La Salle Green Archers rallied for three wins and a draw to climb to solo third at the end of the first round of the tournament.
The streak was made possible by the season’s best goal so far—a last second header by Del Rosario off a rushed right corner inswing by Gab Suarez to stab the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the heart on Sunday, 2-1.
The goal came five minutes after Ateneo midfielder Dan Maquiling sank a tying penalty kick in the game’s third minute of stoppage time, which came off a handball violation by Mikio Umilin.
All of this pulsating action came in the game’s eight-minute injury time.
It was so pulsating that Del Rosario, already playing 101 minutes on that pivotal corner play, was cramping when he lined inside the box.
“I was telling my partner center back [Raphael Dominado] I was having cramps when I went up there for the corner that I won’t be able to cover you on the back,” Del Rosario narrated.
“Then I just told [Suarez], ‘Lek, give it to me, give it to me, give it to the back.’ I know I can take it, I am confident. Luckily it hit me,” he continued.
However, Del Rosario realized that he was in the wrong position when they scrambled for their corner play.
“I actually got lost in the line for a second tapos last minute parang instinct na lang, get the connection to the ball. Fortunately, it went in,” he said.
Del Rosario further shared that he was not confident at the start of the game due to the suspension of his usual back line partner and team captain Manu Cruel due to a second yellow card in their previous match against the University of the Philippines.
“I haven’t played with him (Dominado) in a game. The connection was not really there even if we trained together, but training is different from a game. The nerves were there so I was not that confident especially that Manu is my captain,” Del Rosario explained.
“I had to step up with the role as I was commanding the entire back line,” he continued.
Looking forward, Del Rosario expressed his confidence that they can play better than what they did in the first round, an optimism he shares with his coach Hans-Peter Smit, who earlier said that he is aiming for the finals.
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