Ahead of pivotal clash, La Salle, Ateneo, take top two UAAP soccer spots

By Dugout Philippines

La Salle and Ateneo seized 1-2 position on the table after prevailing over separate foes in the UAAP Season 77 men's football tournament at the FEU-Diliman pitch.

Christian Zubiri netted a goal from a Nate Alquiros assist in the 10th minute as the Green Booters frustrated the UST Growling Tigers, 1-0, while the Blue Eagles topped the UE Red Warriors, 1-0, with Mikko Mabanag scoring the marginal goal from long range in the 19th minute.         

La Salle took the top spot with 19 points, a point clear of Ateneo, which is now in second place with 18, which boosted the aspirations of the two fiercest collegiate rivals of making it to the Final Four.         

Idle UP is now in third place with 17 points.        

In their second meeting in seven days, it was a testy encounter as both the Green Booters and the Growling Tigers went down to 10 men in the last 28 minutes.        

La Salle's Jhoguev Ybanez was sent off in the 6th minute for punching a UST defender, while Tigers skipper Gino Clarino was dismissed on the 62th minute for his second yellow card of the game.        

The Green Booters was the aggressor and could had gotten a better result had La Salle converted some late goals to punish UST's poor defending.        

We were lucky for that early goal by Zubiri," said La Salle assistant mentor Alvin Ocampo, filling in for head coach Hans Smit who has a pressing commitment.        

Up next for the Green Booters is a showdown with the Blue Eagles on Sunday which has a lot of implications on their standing in the Top 2.        

With its return Final Four bid slowly slipping away, UST remained in sixth place at nine points, five points behind joint fourth placers Far Eastern University and National University, who both have 14 points.        

"We have to maintain our spot in the Top 2," said Ocampo.        

The Red Warriors are virtually out of the running in the semifinals race as they stayed in seventh with four points.