Defending champion San Beda College outplayed top seed Arellano University, 2-1, to force a championship playoff in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s football tournament being held at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
San Beda tainted Arellano’s unbeaten record to keep its title retention bid alive.
The fierce clash of the two frontrunners started with both teams eager to open the game with goals for their side.
San Beda pounced on Arellano’s defense aggressively in the in the first 45 minutes of action but their raids on their opponents’ territory yielded no goal until the halftime break.
On the other end, Arellano continued to rely on counter-attacks in its plight to shut down San Beda’s title defense but could not pierce through the latter’s defense.
Both squads sent a series of attacks in the remaining minutes of regulation but the eerie goal-less deadlock was still unbroken until the final minutes.
The Red Lions finally took of the lid on Arellano’s goal in the second minute of added extra time as Nimrod Balabat managed to leave his defender and put his side forward, 1-0.
However, Arellano came back swiftly with an answer from the penalty spot courtesy of Patrick Bernate following a hand-ball infraction from the San Beda defense inside the box.
Aljo Zabala notched the game-winning goal in the 118th minute of extra time via a free kick on the edge of the box to seal the win for San Beda.
“Hats off to the boys. They really worked hard to win this game. Despite the work rate of the Arellano boys, the perseverance of the San Beda players prevailed,” San Beda head coach Christo¬pher Pedimonte explained in Filipino.
He added that they planned to finish off the match with a goal in the final 30 minutes of regulation but reiterated that they had difficulties of penetrating the Arellano defense.
On the final set piece that sealed the win for their squad, Pedimonte revealed that it is something that Zabala work hard on during training and stressed that he is happy that it paid off.
“That set piece that you saw in the final minutes, Aljo [Zabala] really spends time working on it during and after our training sessions. I’m just glad that the ball went in,” he said.
The former San Beda stalwart stated that he wants his wards to get ample rest before the start preparing for their final game in the season.
“The boys need to rest first before anything after this long game. We will focus mainly on our mental preparedness because we won’t have big changes in our game plan,” he concluded.
In their first meeting, Arellano escaped with a 2-1 victory against San Beda after scoring two consecutive goals in the second half.
The championship match between San Beda and Arellano will be played on Tuesday at 10 a.m.