Ceres-Negros FC held on to secure a 3-2 win over Myanmar’s Shan United FC in the AFC Champions League Preliminary Stage 1 match last January 14 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Robert Lopez Mendy, Bienvenido Maranon, and OJ Porteria all found the back of the net while Zin Min Tun and Jawa M. scored late goals for the visitors.
The Negros squad had a dream start in the fifth minute when Hikaru Minegishi found Lopez Mendy inside the box who then drilled a left footer to the back of the net.
The action levelled off after the first goal as the next chance came in the 22nd minute when Mike Ott set-up Maranon but the Spaniard shot wide.
Neither team had clear chances until Maranon doubled the advantage in the 40th minute. A brilliant cross from Porteria allowed the Ceres veteran a shot which deflected off a defender and into the top corner.
The Busmen could have sealed the match just after the break after three chances were missed in the 48th minute. Lopez Mendy broke the trap and faked his defender for a deflected shot that went out for a corner.
The ball found its way to Porteria moments later but his lob beat the keeper but not the woodwork. Lopez Mendy his shot to the open goal went wide. Porteria had a chance of his own in the 50th minute after a Lopez Mendy cross but it too went wide.
Shan came close in the 61st with a booming free kick from Yakubu but Muller palmed it wide for a corner. The Ceres-Negros #1 was forced off his line in the 70th and blocked a dangerous ball off the counter.
The Myanmar National League Champions were eventually rewarded on the 73rd when Min Tun knocked in a beauty of a header to make it 2-1.
The Philippine Champs came back with a vengeance six minute later when Mike Ott found a streaking Porteria in the box who made no mistake to restore the two-goal cushion.
A series of defensive mishaps in the 87th minute allowed United to make it interesting allowed Jawa to turn in their second goal setting up a nervy finish for the home squad.
But five minutes added on weren’t enough as the Busmen continued their mastery over Shan to set a date in the second round with Thai FA Cup Champions Port FC.
“I think we deserved to win,” said Risto Vidakovic. “(Especially) with the chances that we had. I think it was a good win.”
“We only had three days of preparation before the game. Its normal that we struggled in the second half because the team played very well during the first. We struggled in the second half because we couldn’t keep the same intensity,” he added.
OJ Porteria was the man of the match after an assist and a goal that sealed the victory for the busmen. He also echoed the same thoughts as his coach on the victory.
“Like Coach said, we only had a few days of preparation so I’m happy the we kept the ball in the first half and the second half. Obviously our match fitness showed in the second half but I’m very proud of the boys for grinding it out and playing it to the final whistle,” said the National team mainstay.
The three-time PFL champs will travel for the first time to Thailand for the match set on January 21st at the PAT Stadium in Bangkok. It will be the first time for Ceres-Negros to complete at a club level AFC competition in Thailand.
All photos from Ceres-Negros FC/Glen Charles Lopez