Xavier High School Selection Team 2 started their season in sublime fashion as they cruised to a 5-2 opening day victory against a spirited La Salle Antipolo side last Saturday, November 16. It was the first outing of the newly-created Xavier High School Selection Team 2, a mix of both first-team new bloods and seasoned veterans from season’s past.
The team was without the services of forwards Adrian Syliangco and Jaymee Wong, midfielder Xenon Su, defenders Victor Datu, Gabriel Orosa, and Christian Ng, and goalkeeper Martin Eldrige Sy. An early goal under ten minutes by new striker Wilrich Lim was the highlight of a rather uneventful first half; an absolute gift due to a defensive mix up by the La Salle Antipolo back line. The one-nil lead at half time set up an explosive second half, with Xavier scoring four more and conceding two as they ran rampant around a La Salle side that gave it their all.
Being the opening game of the season, moreover it also being the first-ever game for a good number of the players and of the team as a whole, there was some amount of anxiety from the benches during the pre-match preparations, which was quite fair.
A vast majority of the matchday lineup was composed of new players, yet to represent Xavier on the inter-school level of league play. Keeper Ryan Co, fullbacks/wingers Francis Tan and Dimitri Arifin, center backs Lorenzo Arceo and Erwin Tan, attacking midfielder/forward Andre Guevara, and utility man Raoul Anonas were the veteran members of the lineup, injecting valuable experience and stability into the squad. Their presence would be invaluable as Xavier kicked off the game to what would be a relatively up-and-down first half.
Xavier took possession early on, but could not find a solid rhythm to their game yet as the new-look side needed time to gel find their chemistry. La Salle Antipolo were on the offensive, and Xavier had to press hard and defend. A few early shots from the men in green did not do much to threaten keeper Ryan Co in the early minutes, thus prompting La Salle to attempt to control the game by keeping possession.
This early apparent advantage on La Salle Antipolo’s part was soon scuppered as an unfortunate back pass mix-up between their back line and their goalkeeper found the ball at the feet of striker Wilrich Lim, easily poised for a quick one-on-one with the La Salle Antipolo keeper. La Salle Antipolo pleaded to the referee for offside to no avail as Lim slotted the ball past the keeper. It was one-nil in just under ten minutes, with this early goal inspiring confidence in this new High School Selection Team 2.
The tempo picked up after the early goal, with possession being hard-fought and won by both sides. La Salle Antipolo carved out multiple chances throughout the first half as Xavier fought to protect their lead, stabilize their defense, and get their game going. Xavier maintained a clean sheet for the first half due to stellar defending and clearing by center backs Lorenzo Arceo and Erwin Tan. Balls threaded through on goal were blocked, saved, cleared, and easily collected with verve by keeper Ryan Co.
Fullbacks Mark Kau and Francis Tan are also worth mention, with their work rate and energy up and down the pitch ensured to keep the La Salle wide men at bay whilst also contributing to the team’s offensive play.
Smooth link-up on the left between new left winger Vincent Soliven and Francis Tan troubled La Salle throughout the intense first half, with Soliven making spirited runs down the flanks and beating opposing fullbacks. He found himself dancing his way two La Salle Antipolo defenders at around the 30-minute mark, cutting his way into the box poised for a low cross which sadly did not find a Xaverian.
Debuting on the right side was fullback/winger JC Chuatoco, whose work rate and energy throughout the first half was there for all to see. Sadly, exhaustion took its toll on his stamina and overall game, with him being subbed out before the first half ended by another new winger/fullback, Matthew Gan.
Before the break Gan was fouled down the left center of the La Salle Antipolo half, setting up a perfect free kick opportunity 25 yards out, which sadly attacking midfielder Andre Guevara could not convert.
Exhaustion and fatigue was evident as the first half came to a close, with multiple key players starting to cramp up due to dehydration and lack of fitness as early as 30 minutes. Francis Tan, Joshua Chua, Vincent Soliven, and Wilrich Lim began to collapse at different times leading up to the break, contributing to multiple stoppages as their cramps were treated. These injury scares marred what was an intense and exhausting half for the team as Xavier led one-nil at the break.
Chua, Soliven, and Lim were subbed out at the start of the second half. Gene Chua filled in at defensive midfielder, Dimitri Arifin took up his spot as left fullback as Francis Tan moved up to left midfield, and Raoul Anonas switched into the attacking midfielder spot as Guevara moved up top. These three changes would set the spark for a thrilling half which saw Xavier dominate and score four.
Xavier dominated possession with organized passing and slick movement; as if the added experience to the side bolstered team chemistry. Jonathan Tan cramped up at just over 60 minutes, prompting the quick-fire substitution of utility player Russell Tee, who would make a telling contribution a bit later on.
A clearance from the back line of Xavier sent the ball flying through for Tee as he bombed down the righthand side straight towards the La Salle box. Tee was held up by the La Salle fullback as he tried to whip in a cross for Anonas as he waited inside the box. Rather than going for the straightforward approach, Tee spotted Guevara outside the box on the central righthand side facing the opposing goal. A quick back pass saw Guevara quickly control the ball and thread it through to the waiting Anonas inside, who slotted home past the keeper with a neat finish.
La Salle could not regain their momentum after going down two-nil, and seven minutes later, Anonas found himself beating the defensive line of La Salle Antipolo and driving the ball towards goal.
A comfortable three-nil lead was maintained for ten minutes until an unfortunate miscalculation by Arceo saw him out of position as La Salle lobbed the ball through onto goal, to which they finished with aplomb.
Xavier regained momentum and carved out chance after chance, threading the ball through on multiple occasions for Andre Guevara, who found the back of the net with a sweet curving finesse shot after consistently striving to find a goal.
La Salle pushed for a late goal that would have given them hope for a comeback, however slim the chance. A well-taken corner at the 76th minute mark by the men in green forced keeper Ryan Co to punch it out of the way and clear his lines. Rather than forcing the ball upfield he slightly fluffed the clearance, directing the ball to the foot of a player in green on the far end of his right post; a rare mishap by him as he had put in a brave and committed performance the whole game.
Sean Chingkaw and Mark Kau were fortunately marking well at the time, and as the La Salle man took a shot, Mark Kau got an initial touch to it that slowed it down, and Sean Chingkaw sent it flying away upfield with a stunning goal-line save just as it was about to cross over.
Things were simply not going well for La Salle at that point. Arceo soon scored the fifth goal for Xavier as he calmly collected the ball from the La Salle forwards, bombed down the center, and drove it into the back of the net at around the 80-minute mark.
An unfortunate hand ball by Erwin Tan inside the box at the 88th minute saw La Salle awarded a penalty, which beat Ryan Co’s well-outstretched body to give them a consolation goal.
Xavier had dominated proceedings thoroughly throughout the second half, however players continued to experience the cramping blight, with Sean Chingkaw replacing Matthew Gan midway through, and Russell Sy and Miguel Macale coming in for Francis Tan and Russell Tee as the match closed.
Overall, it was a thrilling day which saw a newly-blooded Xavier High School Selection Team 2 triumph with a hard-fought yet eventually comfortable victory against La Salle Antipolo.
Formation: 4-1-2-1-2 (4-4-2 Diamond Wide)
Starting 11: GK: Ryan Co LB: Francis Tan LCB: Lorenzo Arceo (c) RCB: Erwin Tan RB: Mark Kau CDM: Joshua Chua LM: Vincent Soliven RM: JC Chuatoco CAM: Andre Guevara LS: Wilrich Lim RS: Jonathan Tan
Subs: Raoul Anonas, Matthew Gan, Sean Chingkaw, Russell Tee, Miguel Macale, Russell Sy, Gene Chua, Dimitri Arifin
Stallion Man of the Match: Raoul Anonas
Fans’ Man of the Match: Raoul Anonas