Ceres-Negros FC salvaged an injury time penalty to score a 2-1 win over Johor Darul Ta’zim last May 31 at the Panaad Stadium. The winning goal tied the aggregate score to 4-4 but the Bacolod squad progressed to the Asean zone final as they scored more away goals over two legs.
Both teams played cautiously at the start with limited chances created in the first fifteen. It was in the 26th minute when Ceres scored the opener after a Kevin Ingreso free kick was met by a sliding Kota Kawase who poked the ball to the bottom corner for the lead.
JDT coach Benjamin Mora instructed his players to take an offensive line after the first goal which ultimately pushed the tempo of the match higher. A good combination between Fernando Rodriguez and Iain Ramsay in the 35th minute saw the former nodding in a header which was collected well by Farizal Marlias.
Minutes later, OJ Porteria tried from distance with his 25-yard shot going wide. Rodriguez would get another chance in the 40th after a well played pass from Manny Ott allowed him to take a left footed shot that was off by a foot. JDT had its dangerous moments in the first half but did not have enough to trouble Roland Muller.
The Malaysian champions would take control in the second half after getting more of the ball and dangerous chances. A Safiq Rahim corner was headed down by Marcos Antonio but the ball bounced over the crossbar. The JDT captain would glance a dangerous ball towards the middle minutes later but Manuel “Super” Herrera was there for the clearance.
It was a see-saw battle after the hour mark when both teams went for goal. Rodriquez would scuff a good chance from distance and Ott’s industrious play was saved well by the keeper. Gabi Guerra’s precise strike from distance was saved well by Muller. Substitute Hazwan Bakri would take his chance in the 64th minute but it was largely wide. Johor would get an equalizer in the 65th after a through ball to Guerra gave him enough space to slot one past the goalkeeper and the game-changing equalizer.
The busmen had a glorious chance minutes later with Ramsay providing a great cross to OJ Porteria but the attempted volley went over the bar. It was a tense final twenty minutes for both squads with JDT controlling the action defensively, limiting Ceres’ chances in the final third.
It was in injury time when Ceres would get its stroke of luck that has been nonexistent in the semifinal. Referee Fu Ming pointed to the penalty spot after a foul in the box by Aidil Zafuan on Rodriguez. The Spanish striker made no mistake, cheekily directing the ball through the middle with the Malaysian keeper diving to one side.
Things got testy after when Farizal was livid of the penalty decision and attacked the referees after the goal. The Malaysian international was given a straight red for his conduct which forced JDT to change a field player to a goalkeeper at the restart. Both teams would play a few more minutes until the referee blew the final whistle which sealed the win for the home squad.
Ceres-Negros will play in the Zonal final against Singapore’s Home United in August. Both squads will play in a two-legged final that will determine the winner of the Asean zone. The zonal winner would move on to the Interzone semifinals where they will be drawn against teams from Central, South, and East Asia.
All photos from Stephen Tan