Ceres-Negros FC embarks on another tough test as it faces Home United in the first leg of the ASEAN Zonal Finals of the AFC Cup on August 2 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore. The match will be the first of two games that will determine the winner of the three groups in the ASEAN region.
The Negros squad overcame the odds and scored a late winner in the semifinal when it hosted Johor Darul Ta’zim in Bacolod. Ceres tied the aggregate score to 3-3 but the two away goals in Johor Baru spelled the difference to put the Philippine squad in the final. The Singaporean outfit also claimed a place in the final with the same circumstance as it knocked out a ten-man Global squad to progress 5-4 in aggregate after a 2-2 draw in the first leg.
It will be the first meeting of the clubs in any competition with both clubs reinforcing their squads during the break. United will now be able to feature Singaporean ace Harris Harun who is currently on loan from JDT. The versatile defensive player has already won the AFC Cup two years ago with the Malaysian outfit and his influence will be needed in the zonal final.
Aside from Harun, the Group H winners also feature top Singaporean internationals in goalkeeper Hassan Sunny and attackers in Faris Ramli and Khairul Nizam, The club also has Croatian strike Stipe Plazibat who was scored seven goals in the competition.
The Busmen will have a full squad available which includes Bienvenido Maranon, Roland Muller, and Manuel Herrera aside from current national players in Manny Ott, Ian Ramsay, and Junior Munoz.
Ceres will feature three new additions in the lineup with Stephan Schrock, Omid Nazari, and Patrick Reichelt in the fold. All three players have been with the club since the start of the PFL but an early AFC Cup registration period meant that they were unavailable for the group stages.
A tough match is expected from the two finalists with the Protectors having the luxury of playing at home. Ceres Coach Risto Vidakovic acknowledges the added convenience for the home squad. “(It’s) always is advantage (for the opponent) to play at home. We play two games so we have 180 minutes (to play). We reached the final because we fought before, we played against strong teams, and we play as a team. For tomorrow, we have to do the same to get a good result for a next game at home,” said the Ceres mentor.
When asked if the good result against JDT gives the team confidence in getting a result, the Serbian-Spanish coach saw otherwise. “No, this is a different game. I think we have to respect Home United because they reach(ed) the final and they deserve it, same as us. They fought for that and tomorrow is surely a tough game. Both teams want to be the champions in this part of Asia so everyone will give everything to go forward,” said Vidakovic.
Ceres-Negros midfielder OJ Porteria had the same sentiments as his coach and approaches the game as another challenge. “I think this is another game for us, another opportunity to showcase what we can do,” said Porteria. “So its just any other game and as long as we go out and do what the coaches set us out to do, work hard, and give our one-hundred percent, I think we’ll go for the victory.Hopefully we do get the victory but I know that Home United is a good side, so we’ll see, its gonna be two legs and anything can happen in football,” he added.
The match will kickoff at 730PM and will be aired live via cable channel Fox Sports. Tickets are priced at 8SGD for adults and 2SGD for children while national day promo packages are also available. The concession (bleachers) area has a Buy 2 Take 1 promo and a Family package is also available for families with two adults and two children for 16SGD.
Photos from Lagardere Sports/AFC Cup