FAR Eastern University tries to extend its lead in Season 76 of UAAP men’s football with reigning champion Ateneo de Manila still groping for form, but perennial contender University of the Philippines lurks dangerously after the first round of hostilities.
The Tamaraws are on top of the table with a perfect 18 points, thanks primarily to fourth-year striker Jesus Melliza who leads the team with five goals. FEU completed the six-game sweep of the first round with a 3-1 beating of De La Salle, which has 9 points on a 3-0-3 win-draw-loss record.
Ateneo, on the other hand, is struggling in Season 76 and is languishing in the cellar with a 1-1-4 record for 4 points. The Blue Eagles, who are sorely missing ace goalie Nick O’Donnel who had to sit out the year because of academics, are below the Bulldogs of National University (4 points, 1-1-4) on a one-goal difference.
The second round kicks off on January 9 at the FEU-Diliman pitch with Ateneo facing UE at 10 a.m., NU battling UP at 1 p.m. and UST squaring off with De La Salle at 3 p.m.
UP opened the season with back-to-back setbacks to University of the East and De La Salle but are on the upswing. Led by Season 73 top rookie Jinggoy Valyamor, the Fighting Maroons racked up three wins — shutouts against NU (2-0), Season 75 finals tormentor Ateneo (1-0) and University of Santo Tomas (UST, 4-0) — in four matches to stay in the hunt at third spot with 9 points.
UP and De La Salle have the same number of points but the Fighting Maroons own a superior goal difference.
Behind a dominant midfielder in Fitch Arboleda, the 2002-2003 champion Red Warriors are shadowing the Tamaraws at No. 2 on the table with a 3-1-2 record for 10 points.
The UST Golden Booters, who last won in 2006-2007, have only 7 points (7-2-1) for fifth place.