Ceres-Negros FC will play the biggest match in its short history when it faces Johor Darul Ta’zim in the second leg semifinal of the AFC Cup Asean zone on May 31 at the Panaad Stadium. The Busmen are coming off a 2-3 result from the first leg in Johor Bahru in Malaysia.
Both teams figured in a thrilling first leg with the home squad taking the lead just after eighteen minutes from a Gonzalo Cabrer strike. Ceres fought back minutes later scoring two consecutive goals through Fernando Rodriguez and Bienvenido Marañon to take the lead before Johor equalized just before halftime care of Safiq Rahim. The home side would later get the go-ahead goal after Hazwan Bakri’s deflected strike trickled into the goal for their giving them a slight advantage into the second leg.
JDT Coach Ismail Ibrahim is looking at a tough challenge in their away tie in Bacolod. “As you know it is an important game for both teams. So for tomorrow nights match, it’s all about (the) mental (game) and the character in the field. Hopefully, the JDT team prepared themselves in the mental (game) as well as the character in the field to play their best game to win the game”
“Tomorrow will be an important game for us. We’ll give our best to qualify for the final and do our job for our club,” said the Johor Captain Marcos Antonio. “We a did a good job in the second half in Larkin (in the first leg) and tomorrow we try to do our best and concentrate for the first and second half and we try play our game,” added the Brazilian centerback.
Ceres Coach Risto Vidakovic again has given the same expectations from his team. “For us its a challenge with a big club like like JDT. With my players, I expect them to give the one hundred percent of their abilities to win a big game. The result, its difficult to know what can happen in the game. I’m expecting only one thing from my players to do their best in the game,” said the former La Liga veteran.
With the club scoring two away goals in Johor, Vidakovic asserted that the team has less pressure but has enough determination going into the home leg. “The team is motivated to make a big game tomorrow so we are not under pressure. I think its for us is a big challenge to play this game and the opportunity also to reach something. It’s a special motivation for us if we can reach the final. It’s a big opportunity. I think everyone will do their best to reach it,” the Spanish mentor added.
Defender Kota Kawase featured in the first semifinal leg and sees a positive result with good team effort. “I’m pretty sure the home game will still be a very tough so we need to move together, fight together, and we will see the good result. I’m looking forward to play the game.”
Ceres has been through everything after surviving a tough group and qualifying for the zonal semifinals. With their backs against the wall, they have produced a massive result at home against Hanoi FC and secured qualifying away versus Tampines. A third do-or-die game is in on the books, one that will full test the resolve of the Filipino club.
Another capacity crowd is again expected at the Panaad Stadium with the home crowd cheering for a victory and a spot in the zonal finals. Festivities start at 7PM with the match shown live over cable channel Fox Sports 2.
Photo from AFC Cup/Lagardere Sports