Ceres-Negros FC will take on FC Istiklol in the second leg of the Inter-Zone semifinals of the AFC Cup on September 12 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod. The Filipino club will need to overturn a four-goal deficit in order to keep their AFC Cup campaign alive.
Things didn’t go well for the Busmen in their first match last August 22 as the home squad ran away with two goals in both halves. Akhtam Nazarov and Romish Dzhalilov scored one-goal apiece while Istiklol top scorer Manucher Dzhalilov scored a late brace in the match.
Ceres had difficulty penetrating the tall back-line of the Dushanbe club who limited the Busmen to a few chances. Though Ceres had better ball possession in the match, Istiklol’s high-pressing game made it hard for the Negros squad to get any rhythm to score. It was their first goalless match since their 3-0 loss against Felda United in the group stages.
Ceres-Negros Coach Risto Vidakovic recalled the first leg and sees a very tough match ahead. “I think its very difficult. We didn’t play so bad in the first game but we conceded four goals, for me, very easy (goals). We play(ed) maybe very soft in the defense but that’s football. Sometimes accidents happen and after that its very difficult to go up. So we have a very difficult game and we know it.”
Though the team has a mountain to climb, Vidakovic believes the team will do their best to get a positive result in the home leg. “But we have to try, we have to try tomorrow to do our best and you never know what can happen. This is football and anything can happen during the game,” he added.
Ceres Goalkeeper Roland Muller said that the team had learned its lesson after the loss and is concentrated with the task at hand. “We know what we did right and what we did wrong. We are really focused for this game and we know that we will play in Bacolod. It’s always a different game at home than away. We are looking forward so it will be a good game.”
Super Herrera is set to return for the Busmen after a suspension for accumulated yellow cards in both legs of the ASEAN final. His presence was sorely missed in the first leg and his return will add some balance in the Ceres back line. Both teams are expected to have their complete lineups come match day.
Defender Aktham Nazarov and midifielders David Mawutor and Amirbek Yuraboev received yellow cards in the first leg together with Stephan Schrock and Bienvenido Maranon. A yellow card in the second leg would mean automatic suspension for the players in next round.
Ceres-Negros will have history against them as no team has come back from a four-goal deficit over two legs in the AFC Cup. The Bacolod squad will need a 4-0 result in order to push the match to extra time or a five-goal win to go through to the next round.
The match will be shown live over cable channel Fox Sports (1). Fans with tickets are encouraged to come early at the stadium to avoid traffic. The second leg match is set to kick off at 730PM.
Photo from Lagardere Sports/AFC Cup