Final Four rematches highlight UAAP football opener

By Dugout Philippines

TAGUIG--Far Eastern University begins its campaign for a three-peat as it clashes with University of the Philippines in the UAAP Season 78 men’s football tournament on Sunday at the McKinley Stadium in Taguig City.

Even without injured midfielder Arnel Amita, the Tamaraws are tipped to prevail in the 1:30 p.m. kickoff with the Fighting Maroons in a rematch of last year’s semifinals.

Last season’s runner-up De La Salle takes on Ateneo, also a rematch of their Season 77 Final Four duel, in the other match at 6:30 p.m. to cap a heavy opening day fixture.

Sandwiched by the two men’s games is the lone women’s match between the last year’s third placers Lady Eagles and the Lady Archers at 4 p.m.

In the televised men’s matches on Thursday at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field inside the Ateneo campus, University of Santo Tomas plays Adamson University at 1 p.m., while National University collides with University of the East at 3 p.m. The said fixtures will be aired live on ABS-CBN Sports+Action Channel 23.

FEU nipped De La Salle in an exciting one-game final, 3-2, in extra time last year with Paolo Bugas nailing the match-winner, and giving Jhan Jhan Melliza a grand sendoff to his collegiate career.

The Tamaraws hope that Amita will be back as the season progresses to help out holdovers Bugas, Eric Giganto, Nicolas Ferrer, Chy VillaseƱor, Audie Menzi, Joshua Mulero, Raymark Cubon, Val Jurao, Justin Calamba and goalkeeper Ray Joyel.

UP, meanwhile, is bracing for the post-Jinggoy Valmayor era. One of the best strikers the league has produced in recent years.

Valmayor, who led the Maroons to back-to-back title runs in 2010-11 and 2011-12, has already completed his playing eligibility.

Another rallying point for UP to go further this season is Rogie Maglinas, a 19-year old defender who passed away after a bout with rhabdomyosarcoma, or cancer of the skeletal muscles last Tuesday.

Feb Baya, Daniel Gadia, Patxi Santos, Carlos Monfort and goalie Ace Villanueva will lead the way for the Maroons.

Even with the graduation of Gio Diamante, Matthew Nierras and Nathan Alquiros, the Green Booters remain solid with Gelo Diamante, Sabin Bustamante and keeper Paeng de Guzman, while the Blue Eagles hope to gain enough maturity this season with the leadership of Mikko Mabanag, JP Oracion and Carlo Liay.

Ateneo enters juniors final after penalty shootout with La Salle-Zobel

Meanwhile, Ateneo nipped La Salle-Zobel, 3-2, via penalties after a 1-1 standoff after 120 minutes on Wednesday to forge a one-game juniors finals showdown with titleholder FEU-Diliman. The championship match is set on Saturday at the Moro Lorenzo pitch.

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