by Aeron Paul Valderrama
Big time players come up with big time plays in the biggest stage
NCAA Season 91 Most Valuable Player Jumbel Guinabang scored twice. None was as huge as his second in extra time, propelling the Arellano University Chiefs to take Game 1 of the NCAA Seaosn 93 Seniors Football Finals from the College of Saint Benilde Blazers, 3-2, Friday evening at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Right from the get go, the action was intense as both teams plucked two goals. Guinabang received a good long delivery and swiftly took the opening goal just three minutes from kick off. However, the lead did not last long as Daniel Liozo equalized just seconds after for Saint Benilde.
At the 26th minute, the Chiefs once more intercepted a Benildean pass in the midfield before Charles Gamutan made a speedy run into the opponent’s goal for the second go-ahead shot past Jake Vicen.
Saint Benilde skipper Renz Tulayba might have taken four minutes to put the match again on level terms, but it was a similarly well-executed counterattack that knotted the score at two apiece.
Despite the score line, Arellano head coach Ravelo Saluria was pleased with his boys performance especially in this period expressing, “Happy ako. Sinunod nung mga bata yung game plan lalo na nung first half.”
Gambling on positional changes in the second half, the Season 91 kings almost paid for it. The Blazers pounced on the opportunities to take the upper hand in the following period with returning Dean Ebarle and semis hero Wilmer Lopes knocking on the blue-shirts’ door. However, the forwards were not able to convert these chances as Arellano keeper Jericho Desalisa also kept himself busy.
The situation continued well into the extra time before Saint Benilde almost ran away with the match winner. Carmelo Genco fired from the top of the penalty box, but Desalisa did well enough to parry the shot for a corner kick. The Blazers froze after that missed opportunity on the set piece as an errant pass was once more picked up by the Chiefs
Defender Patrick Bernarte found himself with the ball and sped to Vicen’s goal. The wing back found Guinabang up front and the former MVP wasted no time to slot the ball into the goal for the clincher with just three minutes left in the extension.
“Nagtataka ko kung bakit maraming nag-cramps,” Saluria expressed. Nonetheless, it was the determination of the former champs that prevailed to snag the victory. “Puso lang talaga nung mga bata.”
Arellano (1-0) will shoot for their second title in three years when they clash with Benilde (0-1) again on Monday, January 15 at 6pm.