Ian Clarino secures Fighting Maroons 18th UAAP title
05.05.2018|Aeron Valderrama

The captain scores on his final match and his side finished unscathed.

Dominating the UAAP Season 80 Men's Football Final from the get-go, it was skipper Ian Clarino who took the marginal goal and the UP men's football team clinched its 18th UAAP title after edging out University of Santo Tomas, 1–0, Thursday at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium.

In the very same place where the men's athletics team captured the school-best 18th title, it was only fitting that this is where its football counterparts level the record with a performance deserving of the trophy.

It was no surprising that UP bossed the opponents just after the final whistle as what the squad has done all season long. Several incursions from its speedy wingers JB Borlongan and Fidel Tacardon confused the defense of the Tigers, which is even less resistant with a three-man backline. The result was several one-versus-one opportunities for the Maroons. Fortunately, eventual Best Goalkeeper Zaldy Abraham stood equal to the shots from the UP forwards.

Despite the several chances of the UAAP Season 78 champions on the build up, it was on a set piece where they got their go-ahead goal. At the 21st minute, Borlongan who had a shot within his range from the free kick sent the ball past the wall and found his captain Ian Clarino beating the offside trap. The graduating skipper had one-touch control of the ball before finishing with a spectacular volley over Abraham and at the roof of the net and in.

It was more of the same in the second half, but one can sense some adjustments from the Tigers' side. Known for its pressing game, the Golden Booters finally showed some semblance of grit with several plays trying to catch the UP defense off guard and possibly clinch and equalizer.

Nonetheless, the Maroons would not have any of it and the biggest chance from Dexter Benecio to draw level was just routinely stopped by UP's senior keeper Anton Yared. Soon, the very final whistle of the season was sounded and the Fighting Maroons were kings once more.

For head coach Anto Gonzales, it was probably the dedication of his players to the University that led to this championship.

"I think the players are just so devoted, so passionate to play for the school," the mentor said.

He added, "Speaking from experience, I've been coaching UP for nine years. Mainly my motivation is that UP has done so much for me also. UP has helped me so much and I think these boys feel the same way and those who have come before us feel the same way. UP has done so much for us. This is our way to give back."

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