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Thu 23 May 2024

SUDDEN DEATH RESURRECTION: State U returns to UAAP football final

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The football gods smiled down second-seed University of the Philippines (UP) as it took a missed penalty by third-seed University of Santo Tomas (UST) in sudden death for the Fighting Maroons to return to the UAAP men’s football final for the first time in six years, 1-1 (8-7), in Final Four action Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Thomasian defender Francis Jay Vercide, on UST’s ninth and final pen in the shootout, hit the crossbar to drop UST’s attempt to reach the final, also for the first time in six years.

In 2018, the Fighting Maroons nipped the Golden Booters, 1-0, in UAAP season 80.

Wing back Angelo Panganiban scored the winning spot kick for the Maroons prior to Vercide’s.

UP sub Jan Ceena Donato almost lost it for UP on the opening penalty, with UST keeper Miguel Abada saving the shot.

Abada, bruised and battered by UP’s relentless attacks in the past 120 minutes, failed to repeat a save since as his counterpart Fonsi Gonzales saved UST’s fourth pen courtesy of Kyler Escobar.

“All I can think of is to find a way to make it up to the team,” Gonzales said, alluding to his second half spill that led to a UST goal.

“I was able to save all shots [after the UST goal] but it all boiled down to that one save [in the penalty shootout],” the AB History freshman, who debuted late in the first round in place of the injured Ryan Tiambeng, added.

Ace midfielder Francis Tacardon gave UP the early lead late in the first half, scoring off the rebound in the 45th minute.

Twelve minutes later, UST’s top scorer and second half substitute TJ Garciano leveled things up, punishing Gonzales’ spill with an interception strike on goal.

UP held much of the possessions thereafter while UST thrived on defense and counterattack but fatigue caught up with both teams, slowing the game down with several players falling to cramps as the game went to extra time.

Emilio Bongolan had the best chance to win the game for UP but a collision on the 1v1 against Abada resulted in an offensive foul in the 99th minute.

“When it comes to eliminations kasi, it’s about who wants to win e. We both know na in semifinals and finals, knockout game siya e, so who wants it the most,” said Tacardon, who scored UP’s second penalty, helping his team recover from Donato’s miss and draining eight consecutive pens.

“So if you feel na kaya nyo, yun din ang iniisip ng kabilang team, so you have to show more than what you’re showing,” he concluded.

The Fighting Maroons will dare to derail Far Eastern University’s treble defense next Thursday, May 16, also at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

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