Ceres-Negros FC salvaged a 1-1 draw over an inspired Ilocos United squad last November 18 at the Quirino Stadium in Bantay, Ilocos Sur. Adam Mitter scored the go-ahead goal in the first half while Arnie “Dodz” Pasinabo Jr. scored the equalizer late in the second.
The visitors lorded over possession early in the match which was highlighted by a blocked attempt from Pasinabo in the 8th minute. Ceres would pile the pressure earning plenty of corners in the first fifteen minutes but Ilocos was on point defensively to clear the danger.
The home squad squandered a great chance in the 18th minute when a long free kick delivery from Angelo Marasigan was barely missed by Mitter. A similar chance fell to Kennedy Uzoka minutes later but the attacker couldn’t get much on the ball to bother Roland Muller.
United keeper Baba Sampana was outstanding the whole night after a series of key saves in the half. A block on an OJ Porteria one-on-one, a streaking attempt from Junior Munoz, and a cross from team captain Patrick Reichelt was handled well by the veteran keeper.
Ilocos United went ahead in the 35th minute after Mitter broke the offside trap, allowing himself to chest the ball before volleying past the keeper for the lead.
Ceres-Negros pushed for an equalizer in the remaining minute but wide attempts and a great performance from Sampana was in their way.
This was highlighted in injury time after a perfect ball from Stephan Schrock to Bienvenido Maranon allowed the Spaniard a point blank shot but good positioning allowed the keeper to maintain the scoreline through the halftime whistle
The busmen piled the pressure from the restart seeing different opportunities from Schrock, Maranon, Pasinabo, and Nazari. The Ilocos defense however was still in top condition led by Sampana and Mitter.
The Northern squad had twin chances in the 56th minute from Arthur Kouassi and Uzoka to put their team ahead. Muller was forced into a fine save by the Ivorian after beating the trap while Uzoka’s monster run was negated by his poor finish.
Kouassi had the best chance to put his team ahead in the 61st after he collected the ball from the wings before going in and out of the box to get a better angle. His attempt however hit the crossbar and out to the dismay of the home crowd.
Ceres was eventually rewarded thirteen minutes from time after a low strike from outside the Pasinabo hit the back of the net to put both teams level.
They almost went ahead after a lofted ball from Reichelt saw Porteria doing a spectacular overhead kick but a body save from Sampana. Maranon would slide through the defense moments later but another reflex save from the keeper maintained the scoreline.
Pasinabo attempted again from distance but the keeper was ready for the stinging strike. Porteria was given a straight red in the 90th minute after a retaliation to John Kanayama after the Ilocos player’s intentional takedown in the box.
Both teams battled in injury time for a winner but a counter from Kouassi and a shot from Nessi Ramos did not hit their targets. The match ended with both teams bringing home a point in the no bearing match.
“We missed a lot of chances in the first half,” said Ceres Coach Risto Vidakovic. “The intention was to finish the game in the first half. It was obviously different. We tried in the second half to score the goal but we missed a lot of chances also.”
“When you don’t have nothing to win, nothing to lose, and you had many games, it’s not easy to motivate you to play. I think that is the difference. I think the players played with no motivation and intensity. When you play like this, its much more difficult to win,” the Spanish mentor added.
Ceres-Negros will look forward to their second consecutive match with Ilocos United on Tuesday night. The busmen are still in second spot, just one point behind FC Meralco Manila with still a game in hand.