Ceres-Negros FC will host Ilocos United in their first ever Philippines Football League encounter on July 8 at the Panaad Stadium. The Bacolod squad is aiming to get back to winning ways once they play the northern squad at home.
Both teams are coming off narrow one-goal losses from their previous match. Ceres stumbled against Global in Cebu last Wednesday while Ilocos succumbed to a 1-0 defeat from a penalty kick against league leaders Meralco Manila. The two squads are keen to bounce back from their defeats in the next match.
Ilocos are in the bottom of the standings but have shown promise in many of their matches. United coach Ian Gillan is aware of the the challenge ahead for his young squad. “Its a David and Goliath type of affair tomorrow,” said the Scottish mentor. “Ceres are probably the top team at the moment in the Philippines. They play good football they got a squad of depth with quality players. I tip them to win the league,” he added. Ilocos Captain John Kanayama echoes the same sentiment as his Coach. “They’ve done massive leaps in Philippine football. so they’d have much more confidence. Were just up for a challenge.”
Though the group has been together for only a few months, Ilocos United has performed well against strong and well established opponents and have manage to pull off respectable results even in losses. “My expectations are, can we be competitive? Every game so far this season we have been quite competitive. I hope its the same tomorrow,” said Gillian. “We have got a thin squad tomorrow. We are down to bare bones and we have injuries and suspensions. My squad is mentally strong and competitive. We work hard in every single thing that we do. I believe that we probably one of the most disciplined squad in the competition.
Ceres will be playing its seventh match in twenty-two days since June 17, a long stretch that will end after the match against Ilocos. “If you play every three days, the only thing you can do is recover the players because you don’t have time to train,’ said Coach Risto Vidakovic when asked about adjustments on a very tight schedule. “But I think my team already knows how to play. We have worked on that in the preseason and during the AFC Cup. We’ve prepared a lot of important games so I think the players already know. Sometimes its already good to repeat these things that you did be before but unfortunately we don’t have time to work.”
Though Ilocos is a new club, it will feature plenty of league players from the previous years that have saw action for different teams. Defenders Dominic Del Rosario (Kaya FC), William Ebanda (Green Archers), Anton Del Rosario and Goalkeeper Baba Sampana (Meralco) are key players in the defense. Ex-Ceres midfielder Angelo Marasigan will feature in the midfield together with Kanayama who had stints in Global and Meralco. Brothers Chima and Kennedy Uzoka (Green Archers United) and Graham Caygill (Meralco) will shore up the front line.
The match will be without suspended players with Ceres missing Kevin Ingreso, Carli de Murga, and Roland Muller. Ilocos will be without the services of Chima Uzoka who has been the top scorer for the team. The match will kickoff at 4PM and will be shown live over PTV and the PTV livestream. Local fans will have free admission to the Grandstand and Bleacher areas of the stadium.
Photos from Mymy Alagaban and PFL