LOCAL club Ceres-Negros FC’s impressive run in the 2017 AFC Cup continues after it survived a tough two-leg ASEAN Zonal Semifinals with Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) thanks to away goals.
Fought its opponent to a 4-4 stalemate on aggregate following a 2-1 win in the second leg at its home field of Panaad Park and Football Stadium last Wednesday, Ceres saw itself advance to the finals for the two away goals it managed to get in a 3-2 loss in the first leg in Johor early last month.
While the first leg loss had them disappointed, the “Busmen” remained positive of their chances heading into the second leg, believing they perform better at their home field and backed by their supporters.
“We have to win, they (JDT) have to defend the result, and I think we can for sure do very well in Bacolod in front of our supporters,” said striker Bievenido Maranon on Ceres’ official Web site in the run-up to the match.
And Ceres played its cards well in the second leg, staying on top of things even when 2015 AFC Cup champion JDT tried to make its move.
Defender Kota Kawase put Ceres first on the board in the 26th minute with a six-yarder off a Kevin Ingreso cross.
The visitors then pulled even in the 65th minute care of Argentine Gabriel Guera.
Knowing that a draw would not make the cut for the team, Ceres continued to take the fight to JDT.
Ceres was provided a huge opportunity in added time when Fernando Rodriguez was brought down in the penalty area by JDT defender Aidil Zafuan and was given a spot kick, which he calmly converted after to move his team ahead and push themselves to the finals.
In the finals, Ceres will face Home United FC of Singapore wherein it can exact payback for Philippine pride after the Singaporean club eliminated Global Cebu FC in the zonal semifinals.
The AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Finals will take place in August.
For the meantime, Ceres heads back to the Philippines Football League (PFL) where it currently competes. It will play this weekend against Global Cebu.
KAYA FC WINS
Meanwhile, in the PFL last Wednesday, Kaya FC-Makati defeated Ilocos United FC, 4-2, to improve to 2-1-1 for seven points in four matches, good for third spot.
Kaya scored two first half goals -- Adam Reed (23’) and Robert Mendy (28’) -- to set the tone at the Quirino Stadium in Ilocos and never looked back.
It added two more goals in the second half by way of Joven Bedic (54’) and Jordan Mintah (89’) to put the game away from the reach of Ilocos United, whose two goals came from Chima Uzoka (50’ and 90+7’).
“We wanted to win this game. We didn’t want our long journey to be wasted. We put in all our effort. It’s not just me who should be Man of the Match, the whole team should be Man of the Match,” said Mr. Mintah, named Man of the Match after the game.
Kaya next plays on Sunday against Stallion Laguna FC at the University of Makati.