Bacolod squad Ceres-La Salle FC resume it’s 2016 AFC Cup campaign on Matchday 4, hosting Singapore giants’ Tampines Rovers. The Group E leaders are still unbeaten after three games, earning 7 points in the group after two wins and a draw. The Busmen, who are also unbeaten, are in close second with 5 points with a win and 2 draws. Selangor of Malaysia are third with four points and Sheikh Jamal with zero.
The Rovers have been on a three game winning streak in the S.League scoring 2-1 wins against Brunei DPMM and Young Lions while beating fellow AFC Cup participant, Balestier Khalsa 1-0 last Thursday. They are are now on top of the S.League and are favorites to win the league title.
Ceres meanwhile have been holding their own, qualifying to the final of the 2016 UFL Cup after beating Kaya FC, on penalties last Thursday. Kaya FC leads Group F of the AFC Cup with two wins and a loss. The semifinal match was a frantic affair with both squads scoring 2 goals each in the first 20 minutes. Ceres went ahead 3-2 ten minutes before the half but Kaya equalized in the middle of the second and force the game to penalties. In the end, a Mike Casas save and Juani Guirado go-ahead kick booked Ceres to their second straight UFL Cup final. All eyes are now on the match against Tampines.
“Of course, I think it’s the most important game for us this season (especially) right now. If we win this game (against Tampines) we have a serious chance to pass the next round. But first we fly to Bacolod and we have to recover from this hard game and recover the few players we have injured and (we) will be in the game 100 percent,” said veteran Juani Guirado.
A win though is tough task especially that you have to defend against the three headed attack of Tampines. Jordan Webb, Billy Mehmet, and former Liverpool and Arsenal winger, Jermaine Pennant. Ceres was controlling the game in Singapore and it only took one defensive lapse for Webb to get free and turn the game to its head by assisting the first goal. Good thing that the Ceres offense went alive in the end with Patrick Reichelt heading a pass towards Adrian Gallardo who slotted the all-important equalizer.
Breaching the Tampines goal was an achievement as it was a first in the group stage. The heads up play of the midfield was good, leaving the coach with plenty of options on Tuesday. The club is in deep preparation for the match, leaving nothing to chance, and aiming for a good result for the home fans.
“Siyempre yung mga error namin ngayon i-check namin and ang sarap pala lumaban kapag kalaban mo mga ganito. Kami naman di naman tinitingnan yung mga pangalan nila so we have to do or play the best that we can for the people in Pana-ad, management, ourselves, our families, and of course to God,” said Ceres keeper Mike Casas.
The second AFC Cup home match would not be possible without the help of the provincial government headed by Gov. Alfredo G. Maranon Jr. The match was initially set in Manila after a scheduling conflict with the Pana-ad festival, but the annual event was moved for various reasons which includes the AFC Cup match.