|NUMBER 1. Ateneo nab the top seed for the first time since 2013 where they last won it all. (file photo)|
MANILA -- Bouncing back from their embarasing setback last Thursday, league leading Ateneo formally acquired the number one spot in the postseason, eliminating archrivals La Salle in a thrilling Sunday Clasico in the UAAP with a 2-0 win this evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Jaypee Merida's Blue Eagles show no mercy on both ends of the pitch, scoring in either half to complete the double, as well a condemning the off-target Green Archers en route to their worst season in nine years in a gritty yet comprehensive win that also confirms UST's return to the postseason spectacle for the second year running.
La Salle's defeat hurts in more ways than one, as they are missing the Final Four for the very first time since it was introduced in UAAP football four years ago, as well as they can't find the bottom of the net to prevent their elimination from the title hunt altogether since 2012, the final year of the old postseason format where only the two best sides battle for championship.
Ateneo's win also ended UP's late charge in repeating as the league's number one side at the end of eliminations, notching their 32nd point in 13 matches as the champions can only get a maximum of 31 when they play NU on the final day of the eliminations eleven days from now.
Despite missing forward Jarvey Gayoso to suspension, Ateneo took control of the game from the opening whistle, taking more shots on Kerbi Almonte's goal.
Eventually, their well drilled attack bore fruit in the 37th minute, as junior Julian Roxas unleshed a right footed shot into the top left corner that left the sophomore netminder no chance to put the Blue Eagles on the board first.
Sensing that their season lives hang on the balance, Hans-Peter Smit's wards get their bearings together at the restart, but their attemp only go as far as the gloves of AJ Jarcilla who notched his seventh clean sheet of the season.
Tempers almost flare two minutes from full time, when Marcus Garcia collided with Carlitos Mathay resulting into a near commotion in front of the La Salle touchline.
However, the Blue Eagles kept nerve in the dying moments, and just before full time, Sam Lim delivered the point blank dagger into the Final Four hopes of the Green Archers with a rocket from six yards, poking the rebound after Ryan Haosen hits the post on the initial effort.
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