MANILA, Philippines – Rookie Kyle Magdato struck late in the first half as University of the Philippines ended Far Eastern University's two-year reign with a 1-0 victory Thursday in the UAAP Season 78 men's football tournament at the Moro Lorenzo Field.
After Feb Baya's cross was punched away by Tamaraws keeper Ray Joyel, Magdato was there for the rebound late in the first half which turned out to be the winning moment for the Fighting Maroons.
With 30 points, UP secured the top ranking, while giving University of Santo Tomas and Ateneo a free ride in the semifinals set on April 28 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Parading with a young crew which has been steady all-season long, the Maroons were able to advance in the Final Four despite losing ace striker Jinggoy Valmayor to graduation.
"Of course, Jinggoy (Valmayor) has been very instrumental part of our campaign in the last five years. He has scoring goals for us. But I think this group, in terms of work ethic, in terms of fight and stability, it is as strong as it gets. Per position, we covered everything," said coach Anto Gonzales, who is seeking to steer UP back on top after three seasons.
The Maroons also achieved a clean sheet for the sixth straight match, truly living to their lofty billing as the league's best defensive side.
"That is always been our philosophy, everything starts with defense. Our goals haven't really come really very often sa amin. Pero in terms of controlling the game and securing the backline, nandoon kami," said Gonzales.
It was a sorry exit for FEU, which will miss the Final Four for the first time since 2012 after finishing fifth with 24 points.
The Tamaraws crumbled in the second round, as coach Kim Chul Su's side truly felt the absence of injured midfielder Arnel Amita, while rookie striker Rico Andes, the league's leading goalscorer in the first round who was marked in the crucial stretch of the season.
FEU's elimination in men's play came a few days after its women's squad was also dethroned.