The road was long and full of challenges for Ceres-Negros FC. The Filipino club fought tooth and nail to survive Group G of the AFC Cup which was tagged as the toughest group in the ASEAN Zone before embarking on a historic run towards the final. Here are the highlights in Ceres-Negros’ road to ASEAN glory in the AFC Cup.
Almost an upset in Johor
Johor Darul Ta’zim was took the lead early to Gonzalo Cabrera, but successive goals from Fernando Rodriguez and Bienvenido Maranon put a scare to the home fans. Fernando dove towards an OJ Porteria cross to head in a superb equalizer while Bienve masterfully picked out Farizal to score the go-ahead goal. However it was JDT’s day as they would get an equalizer just before halftime through Safiq Rahim before Hazwan’s deflected strike trickled in for the home squad in the second half. Though the team was frustrated of the result, the two away goals was too a great consolation prize to bring home.
Turn of luck in Bacolod
If JDT had their day, Ceres would eventually get theirs at home. Kota Kawase opened the scoring with a slider to put the home squad ahead in the first half. A brilliant strike from Gabi Guerra would put the visitors in the lead in second half but a certain twist of fate changed the outcome of the tie. Aidil Zafuan recklessly pulled down Fernando Rodriguez in the box which forced the referee to call a penalty in the last play. Rodriguez struck the ball in the middle to put Ceres on the final of the ASEAN Zone.
Rude awakening in Jalan Besar
Home United put Ceres to school in the first leg of the ASEAN final. The Singaporean club was given a penalty early in the match with Stipe Plazibat giving his team the lead from the spot. The home squad would dominate but it was an opportunistic strike just before halftime from captain Martin Steuble that put the team back in contention. United was rewarded for their persistence as Harris Harun scraped home a winner in front of goal.
A win for the ages
Needing at least a 1-0 scoreline for the win, Ceres-Negros didn’t waste any time as OJ Porteria redirected an Iain Ramsay cross into the back of the net in the first minute. Fernando Rodriguez had a chance to score from the spot but his kick was over. Manny Ott blasted a wonder free kick into the top corner to put the the Philippine-squad ahead in the tie. Home United chased for a series equalizer but the Stephan Schrock and company held on to win the ASEAN Zone crown of the AFC Cup.
It was a long and challenging journey for the Busmen which was highlighted by the massive achievement for club and country. After the ASEAN Zone, the club will now a mountain to climb when the face FC Istiklol in the second leg of the Inter-Zone Semifinal. They will try to overturn a very difficult 0-4 deficit at home which is on Tuesday, September 12.
Photo from Mymy Alagaban