Ceres-Negros FC succumbed to a 1-0 loss when they faced Hougang United last June 20 at the Hougang Stadium in Singapore. Antoine Viterale scored the lone goal to make the difference for the home squad.
Both teams were active in the early going with half chances attempted. Stephan Schrock tried a shot from the edge of the box in the 2nd minute but the ball went wide. Hougang’s Delvinder Singh tried from twenty-five yards but it went way over the bar.
In the tenth minute, Schrock was brought down in the middle of the pitch with no foul called. This allowed Fumiya Kogure to try from fifty yards which sailed straight to the hands of Michael Casas. Minutes later, Kevin Ingreso was brought down into the box after getting a decent ball but Referee Sukhbir Singh did not blow the whistle. Ceres would try to control the action but good defending and an inspired performance from Hougang keeper Khairulhin Khalid kept the Philippine squad at bay.
A good chance in the half came to OJ Porteria after the he broke the offside trap in the 24th minute. The Ceres midfielders cutback cross was almost brought in the goal by a sliding defender but Hougang recovered to clear the danger. Hougang would have their own in the 40th when Nazrul Nazari sped towards goal, issuing a dangerous through ball to Azhar Sarudin who missed to redirect the ball. The half would end scoreless for both squads.
Ceres would come alive with the entry of Bienvenido Maranon minutes before the hour mark. The Busmen would pile in the pressure, highlighted with a Porteria strike from the edge of the box that hit the post. Maranon would get a chance in the succeeding minutes when he faked a pass and tried from twenty yards but his shot was handled well by the keeper.
The 77th minute saw Ingreso running through the park releasing Maranon in the final third but his attempt was well read by Khairulhin. The home side had their stroke of luck when Luke Woodland sliced the clearance which allowed the ball to roll towards an unmarked Viterale. The substitute had enough space to slot in the lone goal of the match.
Ceres pressed high for an equalizer but Hougang settled well to defend attempts by the Filipino Club. The home squad could have doubled their lead when Kogure blew past the Ceres high line for a one-on-one but Casas was there for the timely block. The Cheetahs would hold on in the remaining minutes to progress into the tournament quarterfinals.
“We tried for ninety minutes, we have the possession, we played football, [and] we tried to build up all the time. They didn’t play, they just defended maybe the most part of the game,” said Ceres Coach Risto Vidakovic. “But this is also football. The field also didn’t help us much. Its more easier to defend than to attack but its okay, they deserve the win,” Vidakovic added
The Ceres Coach lamented the situation leading into the match but is still proud of how his players performed. “I have six national players that came from a long trip before we played a league game last Saturday. We are not specially prepared for this game but we came here to play and give everything. I’m very proud of the players that they gave everything for this game,” said the former Betis defender.
The Negros squad will now have to pick the pieces and look forward to their important PFL and AFC Cup matches. Ceres will host Kaya FC on June 24 in Panaad with the match slated to kick off at 7PM.
Photo from Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League and Robbie Oca