Ceres-Negros FC settled with 0-0 draw against Felda United in a hotly contested affairat the Panaad Stadium. Roland Muller took Man of the match honors with a splendid performance even saving a penalty from Felda’s import, Lucas Cano.
It was a tight first half as both teams as they engaged on a tight defensive battle.
Ceres got the earliest chance but Felda goalkeeper Farizal Harun was there for the save. The visitors ran a quick counterattack but counterpart Muller punched the ball out to safety. Ceres had the best chance in the 10th minute when Super Herrera met Manny Ott’s corner, but his header drifted a foot wide of the post. Felda’s Zah Krangar would juggle his way to a dangerous chance in the 13th but his shot curled above the crossbar.
Felda took control in the middle of the first half getting better ball possession and controlling the forays of the Ceres midfield. Syahid Zaidon tried to volley a free ball but his shot was collected by Muller in the 24th. Minutes later Hadin Azman’s outside the foot effort was again tapped out by Muller. The Bacolod squad had their own chance in the 29th but his shot while falling down was wide. Defender Junior Munoz was stretchered off in the half-hour mark because of a head injuty with Martin Steuble taking over minutes later at right back.
Iain Ramsay tried to latch on the ball in the 33rd minute but his overhead shot was wide. The Fighters had a chance in the danger area with Cano running towards goal but Carli de Murga deflected his shot out wide. The home squad would take control in the final minutes but the defense led by team captain Shukor Adan was equal to the challenge. Felda’s Alif Yusof tried a free kick from distance but Muller was again there to collect. The Busmen ended the half with dominance over the ball but the referee whistled for halftime with both team’s scoreless.
The second half didn’t lack fireworks as both squad eager get a go-ahead goal. Felda teed first after a foul in the edge of the box allowed the visitors a crack on goal. Cano took his chance from 25-yards but the ball went straight to Muller in the 47th. Moments later, Jeffrey Christaens sent a powerful cross into the box which the keeper almost bungled to a waiting Ceres player.
The Bacolod-based squad would get the better of the possession but they were still adjusting to their new formation since halftime. Liberian midfielder Zah Krangar proved to be a menace as he was fouled on the edge of the box. Norshahrul Idlan however delivered a poor free kick before rain trickled in at the 53rd minute. The Ceres defense would again be tested moments later with a series of shots but De Murga and co. would be there to bail them out.
Ceres would get some chances just before the hour mark but both chances from Kevin Ingreso were covered well by Farizal. Things turned for the worst for Ceres when the referee whistled for a penalty after Norsharul was fouled inside the box. The veteran player led a counterattack and beating defenders on the wing before he was clipped by a Ceres player. Cano would step in for the penalty in the 61st with his shot brilliantly saved out for a corner by Muller.
The save by Muller changed the momentum in favor of the home side which allowed Ceres plenty of shots in the opponents goal. Fernando Rodriguez was given a lovely through ball but the Spanish striker shoots well wide in the 64th. Maranon would try his own a minute later but his dipping shot to the bottom corner was tapped out well by the keeper. Manny Ott recovered possession in the halfway line, skipping past defenders and laying off to Ramsay whose bullet of a shot was slightly over.
Felda recovered from the barrage with their own counterattack but Super Herrera was there to head the danger out. The Spanish defender would try a 20-yard free kick minutes later but was off target. Tension was high in the final ten minutes when Alif forced a shot in the 82nd that went over the bar. Zah Krangar broke free on a counter attack and issued a delicious ball to Cano whose uncontested shot was way off target.
OJ Porteria had a chance in the 85th when he dance away from a defender before unleashing a shot that wast a foot over the bar. After which, Arnie Pasinabo Jr. would make his home debut for Ceres replacing Porteria with four minutes to go. Felda would again force another foul at the edge of the box but Zah Krangars free kick would hit the wall and out. Ceres had its final chance when a Christaens cross was punched out and was recovered by Ott who volleyed wide. The referee wold blow the final whistle with both teams sharing the spoils.
The result meant that Ceres would improve to five points in Group G, slightly leading Hanoi in goal difference after the Vietnamese club earning its first win against Tampines to the tune of 4-0. Tampines is third with three points followed by Felda who now have two. The match was attended by 8,960 spectators with an additional 3,000 fans outside who were watching through the viewing screens. Ceres will face Felda on April 4 for their away leg which will be played at the Shah Alam stadium.
Photo from Roy Sabay