ARNEL AMITA netted three goals as defending champion Far Eastern University pummelled Ateneo, 4-0, on Thursday to gain a share of the lead in the UAAP Season 77 men's football tournament at the FEU-Diliman pitch.
Amita was fouled by Jin Montemayor inside the box and scored from the spot in the 38th minute, converted a sharp volley in the 67th and completed a hat-trick 16 minutes later.
"Palagay ko umaangat kami ngayon. Every game, iniisip namin na championship game," said Amita.
FEU now has 24 points to join idle University of the Philippines on top of the table, and ahead on goal difference.
A miscommunication between Wilson Marcelino and keeper JP Oracion allowed Eric Giganto to score and double the Tamaraws' lead in the 56th.
Earlier, Paolo Salenga nailed the match-clinching goal on the far corner in stoppage time as National University nipped University of Santo Tomas, 2-1, to keep its semifinals hopes alive.
It took a great effort for Salenga to control the ball as he eluded the Growling Tigers defense and caught keeper John Rey Catalino napping to give the Bulldogs three points.
"Sa spirit pa lang nila, pursigidong manalo, " said NU coach Wilhelm Laranas, whose troops moved up to fifth place with 20 points, two behind Ateneo. "That goal by Salenga gave us breathing space. We are still alive in the Final Four."
Gino Clariño converted after receiving a cross from Jopridale Molino in the third minute to give UST the upper hand early.
Patrick Valenzuela scored the equalizer in the 64th minute with a header off Francis Abalunan's corner kick.
The Tigers remain in sixth place with 12 points and will miss the semifinals.