University of Santo Tomas (UST) caught its third straight win at the expense of Ateneo De Manila University, 2-1, in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) football tournament on Saturday at the McKinley Hill Stadium.
UST improved its record to four wins and two draws.
It was UST which tested the will of Ateneo defense with dangerous raids across the latter’s territory in the first half and several shots on goal by AJ Pasion, Karl Bronda and Jayson Rafol.
Ateneo also had its attempts to seal the opening goal of the contest but their offense just could not finish their chances on the UST goal.
Despite a dismal first half for the two clubs, UST and Ateneo came back to action for the final 45 minutes of play with a renewed eagerness to secure the win.
Two minutes after the restart, rookie Growling Tiger Pasion managed to shake of his defenders to take a shot on goal and grab the 1-0 lead for his side.
The advantage of UST was doubled in the 61st minutes when an unmarked Darwin Busmion tapped the ball to the back of the net from deep inside the box off a corner.
With Ateneo trailing by two goals, head coach JP Merida scrambled their offense to try and spark a late-game rally to overthrow the Thomasian lead.
Veteran booter Mikki Mabanag together Julian Roxas sent a couple of strikes to the goal of UST keeper Zaldy Abraham towards the dying minutes of the match but still was not able to notch a tally for Ateneo.
As game stepped into added time, UST suffered a blow to their game as Ateneo’s Lui Clavano was fouled inside their box, prompting the referee to award a penalty to the latter.
Mabanag took the penalty for the Blue Eagles and converted it swiftly as their side refused to go down without a fight against the Growling Tigers.
With the win, UST holds firmly to the number two spot of the rankings while Ateneo dropped to the sixth seed with four losses and two wins.
After opening the season with a win against Adamson University, the Growling Tigers settled for two consecutive draws against University of the East and league-leading De La Salle University in their next games.
However, the Espana-based platoon bounced back with victories against National University (NU), defending champions Far Eastern University before posting the slim win against Ateneo.
Meanwhile, the match of the fifth seed NU Bulldogs and the No. 3 University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons ended in a goal-less draw.
JAELLE NEVIN REYES