Ceres-La Salle FC scored a late equalizer to salvage 1-1 draw against Tampines Rovers last March 15 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore. Hafiz Sujad scored the opener while Adrian Gallardo Valdes scored the tying goal in what was otherwise a dominating performance for the Bacolod squad.
Coach Ali Go surprised Tampines by fielding in Paul Mulders to start the game with Stephan Shrock starting on the bench. Mulders repaid the skippers faith with a quality performance partnering with Manny Ott in the midfield to frustrate Tampines on home soil.
Ceres started out as the more aggressive squad in the top-of-the-table matchup with Mulders blasting one from the edge of the box in the fifth minute. Ott had a chance from 30 yards out in the 12th minute his shot went straight to Tampines keeper Izwan Mahbud.
Things settled after 15 minutes when both squads where 50-50 on the ball. Juani Guirado had to clear a dangerous ball from Ismadi on the 17th minute as Tampines were just finding their feet. A dangerous ball went through the Ceres box a minute after but defender Yong Chan “Victorino” Son was there to block the final shot.
The Singaporean-squad felt the heat with Ceres controlling the possession and settled on the defensive in the middle of the half. Gallardo tried from the distance in the 22nd minute but his shot was well wide. The Mighty Stags were quick to defend with five men at the back which forced a battle in the midfield for both teams.
Star-signing Jermaine Pennant tried a dangerous free kick in the 28th minute from twenty yards out but Ceres keeper Louis Michael Casas was equal to the task, diving right to a full-stretch to tap the ball out for a corner.
Ceres had the better chances after the half hour mark with Ott leading the way. The Azkals midfielder slalomed his way into the Tampines box only to be fouled after beating three defenders in the 35th minute. Ott then sneaked a ball in three minutes later to Patrick Reichelt but his header was collected easily by Izwan. The Bacolod squad were holding into possession well building up into the opponents box but the Singapore international was again there to snuff the chance.
The Busmen had golden chances in the dying minutes getting good shots on goal. Bienvenido Maranon nutmegged Ismadi Mukhtar from the left wing and cut into the box. His final shot however was a foot wide from the post. A corner kick in injury time saw a scramble in the Tampines box, but Sang Min Kim’s shot was cleared off the line by veteran Noh Rahman. The half ended with both teams still scoreless.
Both teams did not introduce substitutions in the halftime break with Ceres starting from where they left off. The Spanish duo of Maranon and Gallardo tried their luck in the 49th when Gallardo sneaked in a pass to Bienve who’s shot from a turn was wide.
Tampines had a dangerous chance in the 52nd when Pennant made a through pass to Hafiz who swung the ball to striker Billy Mehmet who’s shot was clipped by Juani out for a corner. The successive corner was headed wide by a Tampines player.
The 2015 UFL League winners were controlling the match in the hour mark with familiarity on the side of Ceres. An Ott and Son combination saw Ott finding his way to the edge of the box laying off to an open Gallardo. A foul was however called when Gallardo lost the ball after Ott was tackled prior to the advantage was given. The ensuing free kick by Ott hit the wall and the acrobatic rebound by Guirado was well wide.
The substitution of Mulders in the 66th minute changed the tempo of the game into Tampines’ favor. The Ceres midfielder, who just came of an injury, had difficulty in completing the match forcing a change in the middle. Defender Afiq Yunos had a very good chance from the edge of the box but his left footed shot was instinctively tapped out by Casas in the 67th. The ensuing corner also saved by the Casas to maintain the scoreline.
Tampines scored their opener when Jordan Webb got past his marker on the right, driving in a cross to a teammate on the opposite side. An unmarked Hafiz was there to meet Jordan’s cross scoring unremarkably with his torso to bring Tampines ahead after 68 minutes.
Ceres pushed for an equalizer afterwards but were unlucky not to get a penalty call inside the Rover’s box in the 73rd. A cross from the left deflected off Ismadi but the referee Ho Wai Sing waived for action to continue. Martin Steuble saw his free kick going straight to Izwan in the 77th. A Ceres clearance deflected off Jordan in 80th towards goal which forced Casas to a reactions save.
Steuble again tried from a free kick outside the box but his shot hit the wall and out for a corner. Maranon drove in the corner with Guirado doing an acrobatic shot which drifted out. Stephan Shrock made his appearance in the 84th with Ceres desperate to get an equalizer.
Substitute Marwin Angeles and Maranon had their chances in the box but both were not enough to breach the Tampines goal. The hosts countered in the 88th which saw Mehmet’s shot saved by Casas. Ceres got their wish moments later when a Steuble cross was headed by Patrick Reichelt towards an open Gallardo. The Spanish forward didn’t disappoint slotting the ball to the bottom right pinning the keeper in his spot.
The Filipino squad pushed for a winner in the remaining minutes but injury time was not enough, ending the game in a stalemate. Ceres-La Salle FC maintain second place with 5 points and Tampines maintaining top spot with 7 points. Both teams will see action on April 12 with the Stags travelling to Bacolod for their second away game in the tournament.