Ceres-Negros FC’s AFC Cup campaign hangs in the balance when it faces Home United in the second leg of the ASEAN Zonal Final on August 9 at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City. The Busmen succumbed to a 1-2 loss on the first leg and will need a victory to progress to the knockout stages of the competition.
It was a challenging first meeting by both teams when they faced each other in the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore last week. Ceres was called for an infraction in the penalty box in the 9th minute which allowed striker Stipe Plazibat to score from the spot early in the match. The visitors had some semblance of control after but the breaks in the game were not in their favor as two successive goals were called off for offside. The Negros squad regained the advantage after a long range strike from Martin Steuble forced the equalizer just before halftime.
Home United was a force to reckon with at home with the Singaporean club generating plenty of chances throughout the match. Multi-faceted attacker Khairul Nizam was a dangerman in the box, earning plenty of chances from set pieces, but was denied many times by Roland Muller. Home pushed Singporean star Harris Harun forward to his natural in midfield position in the second half which allowed the JDT loanee to force his way to a winning goal.
Both teams defended well in match, limiting both their opposing stars as mere spectators in the first leg. Plazibat had to make do with the wide areas while Bienvenido Maranon struggled for form all throughout. It will be an interesting second leg in Bacolod, given the previous result, with both teams gunning hard for regional glory.
“For us i don’t think we are taking the lead,” said Home United Coach Aidil Sharil. “Like I said it’s only the first half of the game. I think we have to finish up the second half so nothing is over yet. Definitely, we always respect the opponent. They’re a very good team, strong team. But what we need to do, for me is that I need eleven fighters in this match. We know that Ceres is a very good team at home ground so definitely those who will play, I need eleven fighters to get a result,” he added.
Ceres Coach Risto Vodakovic knows the gravity of the tomorrow match pretty well. “I think its the most important game in Philippine club history. I think that my players will give everything tomorrow. They will fight for ninety minutes and that’s the only thing I can promise. Because in football you cannot promise results. I expect, like always, the same from my players that they give everything and after ninety minutes we will see whats the result,” Vidakovic added.
“Obviously Home United won the first leg and it was disappointing not to come away with at least a draw in that game,” said Iain Ramsay. “We reflected on the game and we’ve seen where things went wrong and we cant wait tomorrow for night to rectify things. Like coach said, we’ll give absolutely everything and leave everything on that field tomorrow. We know how important this game is not only to the team and the coaching staff but to the Philippines as a whole and we cant wait to play in front of our home fans in Bacolod,” added the Ceres midfielder.
A 0-0 draw is favorable for the Singaporean squad while the Filipino club needs at least a 1-0 result to go on through the next round through the away goals rule. Should a 2-1 result occur after ninety minutes, the match will proceed to extra time and to penalties if there are no tiebreakers in the two extra halves.
Festivities will start at 7PM with the match shown live over cable channel Fox Sports. The winner of the Zonal final will move on to face FC Istiklol of Tajikistan in the Inter-zone Playoff Semifinals with the first leg set on August 22 in Dushanbe.
Photos from Robbie Oca