|Jeremiah Rocha towered over everybody with his equalizer that kept Ateneo unblemished this season. (file photo)|
MANILA -- A cerebral performance between two evenly matched sides turned out as a treat for fans, with a 1-1 draw proving to be enough of a result in the second Katipunan Derby Sunday evening at the Rizal Memorial to conclude the opening day of Round 2.
Ateneo came into this match as the undefeated leaders aiming to improve from their previous draw with FEU while UP sought to avenge their first round loss. With the Blue Eagles welcoming back the services of Jarvey Gayoso who was suspended last Thursday, a win was expected by their faithful supporters in the stands, while the champs have tweaked their squad, with Marco Casambre dropped to the bench due to injury.
With both squads loaded with talents who can make a difference at any point in the game, the first half started cautiously as each side are wary of maintaining their concentration. Half-chances remained as such, chances and nothing more, while both defense toiled with their discipline in soaking up and dealing with the pressure.
As with most high stakes matches like this, a margin of error or a stroke of brilliance (or both) will prove the difference, which proved true in this match as UP drew first blood in spectacular fashion. An initial goal-bound shot by Kyle Magdato was parried by Blue Booter keeper AJ Arcilla. However, Kintaro Miyagi, showing presence of mind, chased the ball as it headed out of bounds and took a chance with a sliding shot from an acute angle that managed to get in goal to put the champs on the board two minutes past the half-hour mark.
The Fighting Maroons boosted with their first goal, started to gain more confidence in their play with more chances created while the Blue Eagles resorted to more physicality to hang on in the first half, but UP kept the 1-0 scoreline in favor of them at the break.
Second half started with Anto Gonzales' wards being the aggressors on offense while JP Merida's side employing a more defensive stance relying on counterattacks. A 53rd minute golden opportunity for the UP proved to be squandered though as a cross happened to land on the feet of Miyagi who tried an audacious tap-in with his back facing the goal eventually went wide, a better aim and it could have put the match to rest.
UP still enjoyed better chances at this point as their rivals were kept frustrated with a few offside violations called nineteen minutes into the restart. But the miss a few moments before will prove to haunt them as Ateneo eventually were able to pull-off an equalizer in the 65th minute as a well executed corner kick by the super sophomore was converted by centre-back Jeremiah Rocha to powerfully head the ball home.
As the match wore on, it was evident that the Fighting Maroons were coming up with a better performance on the ball with only the finishing touch lacking and an inspired performance by Arcilla between the sticks to blame. In the end, parity was enforced as both squads get a point in the standings, same as the number goals they produced in this tie.
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