Published on February 28th, 2015 | by Nadz Gathercole0
Green Booters eye finals slot against rivals Ateneo
Long-time rivals, De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University, will soon step on the field in the semi-finals to fight for a spot to win the title in the 77th season in the UAAP. The much awaited combat will take place tomorrow, March 1, at 2:00pm, at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
DLSU holds an advantage in terms of being more familiar with the venue as it has been one of the areas they regularly train at. “We’re really getting the hang of playing in Rizal so when it comes to Sunday we have the feel of the play,” Diamante thought. Also, it’s more accessible to Lasallians, most of whom are often reluctant to travel a few miles up north to Quezon City. Diamante hopes that more people will show them support, given that it is close to the university.
Capturing first place in the standings, the De La Salle Booters remain unbeaten after finishing the elimination round without a defeat while also amassing nine wins and five draws. Their opponents, the Ateneo Blue Eagles, capped off the elimination round in fourth place with seven wins, four draws, and three losses. In their games this season, neither team won after ending the matches as draws in two occasions. The last semifinal rivalry match between Ateneo and DLSU was in the 75th season where the Eagles finished in first place and the DLSU Booters in fourth. That time, Ateneo eliminated La Salle in a 4-3 penalty shootout victory.
Captain Gio Diamante firmly believes that La Salle will go to tomorrow’s game as favorites but insists that they should not put both teams’ elimination round records in their heads. “We’ve been really doing good but then there’s also this thing with La Salle, we get too complacent sometimes like what had happened during our NU game, our last game in the eliminations,” he stated as he reflected on a dismal performance despite getting a 1-0 win. It is the one thing they would like to avoid for them to stay focused on the bigger prize. Diamante thinks that if there is an advantage Ateneo has over La Salle, it is the former wanting it more as bragging rights have always been enough motivation to win. However, it’s hard to imagine that there is a team that wants it more than Diamante and his teammates. “I think we want it more because we’ve been wanting to win. Every year, we always fall short especially for me, in the five years I’ve been here it’s always been one foot into the finals but then we let go of it. Also, we’ve always depended on other teams to get into the semifinals. This year, it’s completely different,” he declared.
Diamante mentions that the team is well prepared for their match tomorrow afternoon. They have been working on their attack and defense at the venue itself to work on plays that should crush Ateneo’s expectations. Apart from boasting a better record on offense and defense, the elder brother in DLSU’s Diamante brothers duo thinks that La Salle’s belief in each other works wonders for the team. “I think it’s believing in ourselves and playing as a team. It’s really helped us throughout the tournament because with this team, I believe it’s one of the strongest teams I’ve played in and, you know, the chemistry within the team is really strong and that actually helped us.” Another key to victory he noted was listening to coach Hans Smit whom Diamante described as smart in making decisions.
With the suspension of ADMU’s team captain and free kick specialist Mikko Mabanag and the presence of the deeper and better bench of DLSU to back up Noel Brago’s likewise-caused absence, the Green Booters have a higher chance of winning against the opponent. The DLSU skipper is convinced that the Green Booters would gain supremacy at the end of the match. “We stated our own destiny and getting to where we want to be and I really have a big feeling that we’re going to be the champions,” he stated with conviction.
Ateneo currently owns the distinction of having the longest running streak as champions, from the 66th season until the 68th season of the UAAP. La Salle, on the other hand, has not taken part in a championship match since the 68th season, winning only two second runner up finishes from the 71st until the 73rd season and have been stuck in fourth place from the 74th until the 76th season. Tomorrow gives La Salle’s footballers the opportunity to change it all.