Ceres-Negros FC fought tooth and nail to survive Group G of the AFC Cup. Tagged as the toughest group in the ASEAN zone, every game was hard fought with the group winner determined in the last matchday. Here are the key moments in Ceres-Negros’ campaign in the AFC Cup group stage.
Bienve’s away goal
Hanoi FC was a tough customer in the opening game. The home squad poured their attacking might and were on point defensively throughout the match. Bienvenido Maranon played his worst game in the group stage in Hanoi, with the attacker unable to get some rhythm all throughout. It was when a deflected header on-goal that allowed the Spaniard to poke the ball towards the net to redeem himself and give Ceres the 1-0 lead. Though Hanoi would equalize later on, the point was enough for a good start for the Filipino squad.
Iain Ramsay 1st minute devastator
The fans were barely warming their seats when Iain Ramsay unleashed a quick-fire outside-the-foot shot from distance. The ball curled its way to the top corner and in giving Ceres the 1-0 lead with barely one minute in the clock. The Tampines defense was shell-shocked with the goal that dictated the 5-0 drubbing against the Singaporean outfit and the first three points for the Bacolod squad.
Roland’s penalty save
It was a frustrating night when the Ceres attack unable to break down the Felda defense at home. It became clear when the visitors were successful in the counterattacks which led to dangerous shots and eventually a penalty awarded for their persistence. Lucas Cano stepped in for the penalty and drove the ball to the bottom left. Roland Muller dove slightly to his left but eventually found a way to tap the ball out in the opposite side to preserve the precious point.
Self-destruction in Shah Alam
With Felda confident of almost getting a result in Bacolod, the MSL outfit didn’t let this game away by giving the Negros squad its biggest loss in AFC Cup history. Ceres was brought down to earth that night, and they didn’t forget.
Fernando’s opportunistic strike
With their backs against the wall against arguably the best team in the group, the busmen came forth with a performance to remember. Bienvenido earned a penalty to get the 1-0 lead. Kevin Ingreso stunned the visitors with a lovely strike which hit the crossbar and in to double the advantage. A sudden equalizer was in play for Hanoi but the cake goes to Fernando Rodriguez. The Spanish forward struck a free ball at the edge of the box to lob the Hanoi keeper and restore the two goal advantage for the home squad. The Bacolod squad didn’t look back from there finishing the match with an improbable four-goal cushion.
With a 3-1 lead against ten men, there was little to worry for the visiting squad. Until the talismanic Khairul Amri earned a penalty giving his team a chance to spoil Ceres’ bid for the next round. It was a nervy sequence for the Filipino club after the penalty conversion but Kota Kawase met a well drilled corner from Kevin Ingreso to score Ceres’ fourth goal, booking their seat in the Asean zone semis.
With Ceres finishing the group over Hanoi just by a head-to-head tiebreaker, one can simply look back and appreciate the series of fortunate and unfortunate events the club had to endure to get to the next stage. The Busmen move on to the semifinals against a regional favorite Johor Darul Ta’zim. The former AFC Cup winners are regarded to be one of the best in the region and are certainly no pushovers in this stage. The semifinal first leg is set on May 17 and will be held in Larkin Stadium in Johor.
Photo from AFC Cup/Lagardere Sports