Opening Day Clash: Green Booters v Fighting Maroons End in Stalemate!
Published on February 5th, 2017 | by Louie Fernando
The UAAP Season 79 Football Tournament kickstarted with the DLSU Green Booters pitted against reigning champions UP Fighting Maroons, February 4 in Rizal Memorial Stadium. DLSU gave its all to contain the Maroons’ offensive firepower which resulted in a grit and grind contest that gave a glimpse to an exciting match-up. The Green and White’s goalkeeper Kerbi Almonte anchored their defense with numerous saves to deflect off UP’s attack. Both teams had some chances to tally a goal but both defenses shored up and resulted to the match ending, 0-0.
Asked about why the Fighting Maroons seemed to have control of the pace throughout the game, Almonte said, “. . . that’s coach Hans’ tactic. We just had to trust him. Thank God it worked. [The gameplan was] stay deep, wait for them, when they commit a mistake, we counter it, we capitalize on their mistakes”.
The tactic worked for the team as the Maroons were held goalless. Coach Hans Smit’s gameplan to have his squad stay low and ultra defensive was to try and make the strength of UP’s offense their weakness. The plan seemed to fit the club because DLSU has the players that allows them to play through their defense.
Centre-back Noel Brago and Almonte kept the Booters’ defense grounded as the Maroons relentlessly attacked their defensive line. Not more than 10′ into the game, Almonte captures an early goal attempt by UP, marking his first of many saves in the match.
While UP was controlling the tempo of the battle, on the other hand, Brago, Jose Montelibano, and Nicolas Villacin took turns to give Almonte a hand on the defensive end early in the game. A couple of UP’s offensive players blitzed their way to the box throughout the game only to be denied by DLSU’s stifling defense.
The Green Booters were physical and crowded the forwards of the opponent whenever UP was threatening to score. They disrupted the Maroons’ rhythm especially in the second half, successfully icing UP’s offense.
La Salle’s defense was their saving grace. At the end of the game, even when coach Smit subbed in his rookies Paeng Siggaoat, Mauro Acot, Chris Lawless, and Bernaldez for the team’s starters, their defense stayed steady and forced the Maroons to commit some mistakes and gave them a few opportunities to counter and grab the lead and maybe the win. However, La Salle failed to capitalize on offense.
After the match, coach Smit sees that the club has a lot to improve on especially on offense, “More cohesiveness, more patience, and more aggressiveness in attacking . . . May kulang pa, kulang talaga sa atake”. Still, getting the reigning champions as a first matchup is a good gauge whether the team is poised for a title run or not.
Coach Smit admitted that the team did not have much play on the attacking side. As a club with talented forwards, instilling an effective system should be doable. Plus, the team has a plethora of two-way midfielders like J. Montelibano, whom could make the offense-from-defense system work for coach Smit.
However, the veteran coach did praise the team’s overall effort, “Everybody did their best. May contribution naman lahat eh, the eleven plus all the substitutes had their contributions and that’s a good sign already”. Moreover, according to him, the team will stick to the same XI. Although Gelo Diamante exited the game due to an injury at around the 65′ mark, it’s impact to the line up is still unclear.
Even without the win, the Green Booters had a solid outing. With a strong UP offense, the Booters had each other’s back on defense and that made the difference. Meanwhile, the improvements will come and this is only the first game of the season, “. . . the season’s long. We still have a lot to go”, remarks Almonte.
Catch their next game as the DLSU Green Booters try to snag their first win against the UE Red Warriors in Rizal Memorial Stadium, February 12, 2 p.m.