The Ateneo Blue Eagles fought back from a goal down, defeating De La Salle University, 2-1 in extra time to reclaim the men’s crown in the UAAP season 81 football tournament, Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
The collegiate rivals put on a finale for the ages, as both sides got off multiple chances with a lot of close conversions.
The tightly-contested match was a scoreless stalemate at the midgame break.
It wasn't until the 78th minute that someone finally recorded a conversion, as rookie Mohammad Almohjili raced down the pitch and passed the ball off to fellow rookie John Rey Lagura before getting it back inside the box for the goal to give DLSU the lead in the 78th minute.
With time running out, the Blue Eagles pushed their offense in search of a last-minute equalizer but just could not push past the Green Archers defense.
In the first minute of injury time however, star striker Jarvey Gayoso stepped up in the clutch as he recieved an assist from Luca Alleje and finished inside the box for the equalizer to force extra time.
In the 30-minute extension, it was Ateneo who took the drivers' seat, courtesy of graduating Julian Roxas, who out-jumped defenders and finished off a well-placed header for the 2-1 advantage in the 100th minute.
This time around, it was Ateneo who needed to hold on to their lead, and they managed to do so, preventing De La Salle from finding an equalizer of their own.
"It's good to be back, that's for sure. It's good to reap the hard work that we put into this season, put into ourselves," said Gayoso following the championship win. "It took a lot of dedication, it took a lot of hard work before this day, and I'm glad that God gave us that win."
Apart from the championship, Gayoso also took home Most Valuable Player honors for the second time in his career, as well as Best Striker honors for the fourth straight year. Ateneo keeper AJ Arcilla meanwhile took home his second Best Goalkeeper award.
DLSU's Shanden Vergara was named Rooke of the Year, while teammates Jed Diamante and Yoshi Koizumi were named Best Midfielder and Best Defender, respectively.